“If the wolves offer friendship, do not count on success”*
As I scrolled through Netflix the other night, a Jordanian film called Theeb caught my eye and I watched it. Set in the magnificent Wadi Rum in 1916, Theeb chronicles the struggle of a Bedouin boy (the eponymous Theeb) to survive in the unpredictable, changing adult world.
Despite the historical setting, WWI and the Arab Revolt provide a backdrop and nothing more. None of the main players in the Arab Revolt make an appearance or even get mentioned, albeit the briefly encountered Englishman is clearly reminiscent of T.E. Lawrence. Even Auda Abu Tayi, the great Howeitat leader, who actually lived in Wadi Rum, is excluded. Likewise, neither women nor religion play any role. Rather, the film concerns itself with the boy Theeb, his brother, and the antagonist, a guide turned brigand by geopolitical forces way beyond his control. It’s not perfect by any means, but it is beautifully filmed,
well acted (the boy and his brother are not professional actors),
and has good music (listen to the whole segment). Most reviewers call it an adventure and liken it to westerns, and while this assessment may be superficially true, I think it misses the point. What makes the film interesting is the distinctly Bedouin take on codes of behavior and survival. Theeb is definitely worth a view.
Incidentally, Wadi Rum is Jordan’s Monument Valley. If you aren’t up for Theeb but want to appreciate the incredible scenery, you can see it in Lawrence of Arabia, The Martian, Prometheus, Red Planet, The Last Days on Mars, or Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Clearly, this locale is a favorite stand-in for Mars.
*From the voice-over at the beginning of the movie: “In questions of brotherhood, never refuse a guest. Be the right hand of the right when men make their stand. And if the wolves offer friendship, do not count on success; they will not stand beside you when you are facing death.”