By Reno Rangan
About a Young Boy from the Wild Middle-East
Right away seeing this film I was confident that it definitely would get nominated for the Oscars and yesterday (14-01-2016) AMPAS announced the list and it got confirmed. Born and raised away from their motherland, after learning filmmaking in the west they returned to their root to make films about their native culture and history.
One such example was the recent Ethiopian film Difret that brought on screen the gruesome culture still practiced and now this. These films are the hidden gems, something we won’t get regularly in Japanese, English, German, Russian, et cetera films, due to the variation in culture, history and geographical diversity.
This film is set in the year 1916, exactly a hundred years ago from now. But takes place in the hot desert with gun fights; it looked a lot like a western genre. This is a story about a young boy named Theeb who went along with his elder brother to guide a British officer to a classified destination, he gets stranded and has to face some trouble to get back safely to his tribe.
Right from the beginning it’s focused only on Theeb, but that’s when he gets caught between during the World War I tension and some domestic conflict over pilgrim related. There’s no clear picture what those are all about, especially if you got no knowledge about the history of this part of the earth. But something was there that the British officer was looking for his regiment. So they became the subplot as the primary plot is about the boy and his struggle told through his eyes. A simple tale, but everything was described through actions, not with words.
“The strong eat the weak.”
There was sufficient violence in the tale, but still not that brutal as we’ve seen in some of the major Hollywood flicks about the two World Wars. Considering the timeline of this narration and revolutionary movement, it all makes sense, especially knowing a child is involved in it. I don’t know whether it was based on real events, but the depiction was natural and that’s the commitment paid off very well in the end.
You won’t feel like you’re watching some middle-eastern film, more like a Hollywood or British film that borrowed cast and story with the original language from that region. I felt that way for many reasons and one of that was the awesome background score. And the landscapes, nothing less than the recent CGI extravaganza The Martian. It’s not red, but actual Arabian desert that is very well utilized to narrate the plot.
Completely in Arabic language, but there are a few English lines. It’s not anything about related to religion and culture, but survival and revenge. Incidentally, this story and Lawrence of Arabia takes place in the same year. I feel there’s a connection between these two, not meant officially, but like all the WWI and WWII films has the same connections respectively. The common thing here was the Arab revolution, so I think this one is only the other side of the story of the title I mentioned in a very small scale.
Initially I thought it might be overrated like the last year’s Oscars nominee Timbuktu, but it’s good to know it was much better. The first 10-15 minutes opening looked so different and then I came to know it was only an introduction to what comes after.
Excellently written and beautiful cinematography and it definitely does not look like the director debuting with this. It’s great effort from both the cast and the crew. I congratulate the whole team for earning the Oscars nod. And for you guys, it is a very good movie and I hope you are going to watch it after reading my review.