Theeb (2014)





Director:       Naji Abu Nowar.

Starring:       Jacir Eid Al-Hwietat (Theeb), Hussein Salameh Al-Sweilhiyeen Hussein Salameh Al-Sweilhiyeen (Hussein), Hassan Mutlag Al-Maraiyeh (The Stranger), Hisham Ahmand (Revolter), Ali Al-Awaisheh (Ottoman Solider), Yaseer Al-Braji (Ottoman Solider), Taha Ahmad Al-Radaideh (Ottoman Soldier), Saif Hamdan Al-Udwan (Turkish VO Actors), Mohammad Al-Ugaily (Ottoman Solider), Mohamad Mansour Al-Zoubi (Turkish VO Actors), Safa Alazarat (Noaf), Hmood Ali (Sheikh), Maidi Asa'ad ( Ottoman Solider), Abdullah Atawi (Revolter), Marji Audeh (Marji), Eyad Daher (Dead Body in Well, Jack Fox (Edward).

troubles for the Ottoman Empire at the hands of a young boy



Hejaz Province, Arabia, 1916.  [The Hejaz is a region in the west of present-day Saudi Arabia; bordered on the west by the Red Sea, on the north by Jordan, on the east by the Najd, and on the south by Asir. Its main city is Jeddah, but it is probably better known for the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina.  Wikipedia.]

A young boy named Theeb is called to help water the camels.  Later his brother teaches Theeb how to fire a rifle.  At night in the tent, Theeb's brother hears somebody approaching the tent.  He goes out into the dark and returns with two guests.  One of the strangers is an English military officer in uniform.  The guests are directed to the tent.  Big brother and Theeb go to kill a goat for supper.  They pick out a goat and big brother slits the goat's throat.  They have a good dinner. 

The Arab guest ask where's Shyikh Abu Hmoud's tribe?  The hosts explain that they are of that tribe.  They add that the Shiek is now dead.  Theeb's eldest brother says he is a son of the Shiek, along with Hussein and Theeb.  The guests stay overnight.

In the morning Theeb is curious about the Englisman's belongings and he goes through them.  He sees a small box and picks it up.  The Englishman sees Theeb and tells him to get away from the box.  Theeb is frightened by the Englishman and runs inside the tent. 

The guests want to be taken to the Roman well on the Pilgrim's Trail.  Hussein is volunteered to be their guide to the well.  The eldest brother warns the guests that there are more bandits on the trail than pilgrims these days.   The two visitors will not be deterred. 

The following morning, the two visitors and Hussein set off on their journey.  Theeb decides to follow the men on his donkey.  The donkey soon gives out, so Theeb decides to let the donkey go back home as he starts following the footsteps of the three camels. 

During the night, Theeb reaches the camp of the three men.  The men are not happy about Theeb showing up.  In the morning, Hussein puts Theeb on the back of his camel and the men start out again.  They come across the footprints of six camels in the sand and wishfully say the riders must be pilgrims. 

The group camps out for a second night.  In the morning the men set out again.  They stop along the way and the Englishman tells his partner:  "We can't be too close to any of the stations."  They are planning something. Theeb asks his brother what's in the small box?  Hussein doesn't know, so he tells Theeb that the Englishman has his gold in the box.  Hussein goes to talk to the two men.  While he is away, Theeb once more starts to investigate the box.  The Englishman sees him and comes running after Theeb.  He says he warned him to leave the box alone and manhandles the boy.  Hussein comes to Theeb's rescue and the three men have a little scuffle that doesn't last long. 

With more traveling, the group comes to the Roman well.  They stop and walk over to the well.  Marji, the Arab visitor, asks where are the people they have come to meet here?  Hussein says the men are coming.  The Englishman uses a bucket to bring up some water from the well.  He throws some water on his face and finds that there is a lot of blood in the water.  They look into the well and find the bloody bodies of some travelers.  Nervously the men look around the area and Hussein says they are being watched.  There are six men on camels watching them.  Hussein says they have to get out of this place, because those men killed the men with whom they were to rendezvous.  The Englishman is upset because Hussein it taking them back.  The British soldier says that they have to keep going forward because they have to find the rest of their regiment.  He goes forward and the others have to follow him reluctantly.

At night in a cave, the Englishman  argues with Marji.  He says:  "This is a war.  We can't sacrifice the mission for two boys. . . .  If we do not get to that railway, do you know what will happen?  The Turks will send a train and massacre your brothers!"

Marji and the Englishman set off on their own in the morning leaving Hussein and Theeb alone.  Hussein tells Marji that he is afraid the he will not be able to find the next well.  Marji goes anyway. 

Hussein decides to follow the two men.  Theeb says he's not going with his brother, but Hussein insists that he go with him. 

The two followers catch up with the two men.  They continue forward together.  They find that next well and decide to camp for the night.  They celebrate their arrival by bringing up water from the well to drink.  Marji drinks first and then hands over the water to the Englishman.  As he drinks he is shot in the chest and goes down.  Marji fires back at the bandits and kills one of them.  Hussein and Theeb rush for some cover.  Marji drags the Englishman over to the side of a mountain, but then he is killed by one of the bandits.  Hussein runs over and grabs Marji's rifle.  They run to their camel, but the bandits come around the corner on their camels.  So the two brothers run up into the mountains to find some protected place. 

There are four bandits left. Hussein shoots the bandit trying to take the brother's camel.  The bandits disperse to safe locations.  They taunt the brothers long into the night. 

The bandits sneak up into the mountains and one of the bandits gets behind them.  His shot misses and the brothers decide to head down to the ground.  It sounds as if Hussein may have wounded one of the bandits.  He manages to shoot another bandit and the bad man goes down.  The brothers reach the flat ground and they start running around a corner of the mountain.  There is a bandit in hiding there and he shoots Hussein.  Theeb breaks away from the bandit, but then falls down into the well. 

One of the bandits fires into the well, but doesn't hit Theeb.  The man then cuts the well rope and lets it drop into the well.    The bandits leave.  Theeb is able to climb up a wall and get out of the well.  He then collapses from the exertion and falls to sleep on the sand.  When he awakens he goes to the body of his brother.  He tries to wake Hussein, but Hussein is dead.  He covers the body with sand and then places rocks around the grave. 

Theeb wiles away the long hours until someone will come to the well.  He sees a man who seems to be hurt managing to just stay in the saddle as his camel slowly heads for the well.   Theeb walks toward the camel.  He tries to wake the man in the saddle, but he doesn't awaken.  So Theeb brings the camel over where he has been staying near the well.  He has the camel go down on the ground and the rider falls off onto the sand.  He stays like that for a long time.  Theeb goes through all his possessions.  He finds some flint and starts a fire.  He also finds the small box that belonged to the Englishman.

In the morning Theeb awakens and sees that the man is now awake and asking for water.  Theeb is hesitant, but does the right thing and brings water to the man.  He tosses the water bag over to him and as the man starts drinking, Theeb grabs the Englishman's pistol from around his waist.  He holds the pistol pointed at the man.  The man tries to grab at Theeb, but Theeb runs away.  The man swears that he will find the boy.  Theeb runs to the open areas to shout for someone to help him, but there's no one there. 

At night Theeb makes another fire.  Then he starts trying to open the small box.  As he works on the box, the bandit crawls up toward him.  The bandit tells Theeb that what he's doing is very dangerous.  A little later he tells Theeb not to be scared of him.  Theeb mentions that the bandit killed the people he was with.  The bandit says that was their fault for coming out to this bandit infested place.  He also says that it was Theeb's people who shot him.  He then just goes to sleep.

The bandit awakens in the morning and is able to crawl over to the sleeping Theeb with the gun loosely in his hands. The man grabs the pistol and points the gun at Theeb.  Theeb is scared, but quickly the man puts the pistol in his waistband and tells Theeb to get some sleep.  He too goes back to sleep. 

The man awakens and then he awakens Theeb.  He tells Theeb to take the dagger and cut the bullet out of his left thigh.  Theeb doesn't want to, but he does dig the bullet out.  Now the bandit makes Theeb heat up the dagger in the fire.. The bandit then uses the dagger to cauterize his wound.

Now the man is well enough to ride the camel.  He takes Theeb with him.   They ride through the night and come to the railway tracks.  The bandit explains that the pilgrims and Ottomans ride the trains on the railways.  A group of armed men on camels ride up to the man and boy.  They say they are revolutionaries.  The bandit tells the men that he is a pilgrim guide.  The leader of the group of revolutionaries advises the bandit to avoid the railway:  "We have business with the Ottomans."   [At the time the Arabs were fighting the Turkish Ottomans who held a vast empire of land, including the Middle East.]

At camp for the night the bandit tells the boy the he really was a pilgrim guide at one time.  Many generations of his family were pilgrim guides, but then the railway came and that ruined the guiding business.

In the morning the guys ride their camel along the railway.  They come upon the site of a recent skirmish with lots of dead men laying on the sand.  Theeb is somewhat shocked.  He asks the bandit what happened.  He says a lot of the dead are Englishmen:  you can't stop a spear with your hand. 

The guys arrive at an Ottoman outpost.  The two post guards are deep in sleep.  The bandit hides his English pistol in a saddle bag.  He tells Theeb to remain with the camel while he goes to talk to the soldier in charge.  Theeb follows after the bandit.  Inside the post, two soldiers are playing a board game, while the lieutenant is shaving his face.  The bandit waits for the lieutenant to finish before talking.  The officer finishes and then puts on his military coat and pistol.  Then he sits at his desk and tells the man to come forward.  The bandits start showing the lieutenant things that he stole from his victims.  One of the items is a watch and chain, but then the bandit puts the dangerous small box on the table.  He tells the officer he got the box from Egypt.  There is a key on the watch chain and the lieutenant uses it to open the box.  Inside the box is a detonator to be used by the English to blow up Ottoman locomotives.  The lieutenant gets out his money to pay the bandit, but he is distracted when he spots Theeb. 

The lieutenant calls for Theeb to come to him.  The bandit quickly says that the boy is his brother.  The lieutenant gives the money to the bandit, but takes one of the coins from the stack and puts it on the table for Theeb to take.  Theeb refuses to take the money from the Turk.  The bandit tells him to take the money, but Theeb just walks to the table and pushes the coin back towards the soldier.  The bandit tells Theeb to go stay with the camel.  Theeb leaves.  He walks over to the camel and gets out the English pistol.  He starts walking back to the post.  He stops, cocks the pistol and points it toward the door. 

The bandit comes out from the post.  He sees Theeb pointing the pistol right at him.  The man stops, saying nothing.  Theeb hesitates, then pulls the trigger.  The bandit goes down with a thud.  The soldiers come running with their weapons at the ready.  The lieutenant comes out and Theeb says:  "He killed my brother."   The lieutenant thinks a bit and then tells Theeb to go home.  Theeb runs to the camel to be on his way.  The lieutenant tells his men to get rid of the body. 

Theeb rides away from the outpost.  A train chugs along the sandy railway line.  Theeb follows the railway for a short while then heads toward the mountains. 



Terrific movie.  The story is set against World War I and the weakness of the Ottoman Empire.  In Saudi Arabia and elsewhere there was a revolt against the Ottoman overlords, in which Lawrence of Arabia was deeply involved.  The British are in the area and the war comes to a small boy's tent when an Arab with a British soldier show up.   The soldier and his companion need a guide to go through a bandit-infested area to join up with his British regiment.  The boy Theeb wants to go with his brother when he guides their guests through the badman's mountains.  His brothers tells Theeb no, but Theeb follows the men anyway.  This act brings Theeb and the three men into great danger along the way.  Theeb says he is not afraid and can take care of himself, and he certainly gets tested in a bad game of survival. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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