Straight Outta MENA: Oscar Nominated Arab Film Theeb Could Make History
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The Middle East’s cinema community is celebrating one of its own- Theeb, a Jordanian film about a young Bedouin boy set in the World War I era, has been nominated for a 2016 Academy Award in the Foreign Language Film category. The film, which has been privy to praise from Jordanian royals like Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah and HRH Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, was backed by SANAD, twofour54’s development and post production fund, and Doha Film Institute, and was also supported by the Switzerland-based visions sud est.
Theeb features non-professional actors from the Bedouin community as its central cast, and has been described as a coming-of-age film set against the backdrop of the Ottoman Empire in 1916. In an interview with the Film Society of Lincoln Center, British-Jordanian director Naji Abu Nowar revealed that he was a fan of the Western genre, and much like how acclaimed filmmaker Akira Kurosawa adapted it to Japanese culture, Abu Nowar wanted to do the same for Bedouin culture with Theeb.
Having traversed the film festival circuit since its world premiere at Venice Film Festival 2014 (where Abu Nowar won the Best Director award), the movie has also been nominated for the British Academy Film Awards for the Best Film Not in the English Language, and Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer categories. Competing against Colombia’s Embrace of the Serpant, France’s Mustang, Hungary’s Son of Saul and Denmark’s A War, if Theeb wins at this year’s Oscars, it will be the first Arab film to be awarded an Academy Award. Fingers crossed, everyone!