Theeb is a story depicting the reality of contradictions between the Oriental wild life and the Western modern one that brought losses to the indigenous inhabitants. The idea of involving non-professional actors but real Bedouins particularly reminds the method of the film named Salt of the Earth, when the producers also involved non-professional Spanish American miners to depict the authentic tone of the film. However, the film does not have many textual or emotional motions that would require some specific professional skills. Theeb has a biographical background of its producer Naji Abu Novar and strong historical, social, and cultural image prospections. The paper contains the analysis of the movie Theeb in the context of those aspects and proves that Novar’s post-colonial will was a particular propaganda depiction of the noble Islamic brotherhood among the Arabic revolve supporters in terms of the traditional Muslim outlook.
Before analyzing some social, historical, and political aspects, some background issues might particularly explain the process of the making of Theeb and the meanings of the main emphases. The film director, Naji Abu Novar, belongs to the family of Jordanian military immigrants who had moved to England. It is interesting to note that the skills and knowledge gained during his war studies classes, Novar used in his film Theeb, especially in the scenes of gun contradictions between the Arabs and their localization. Obviously, the motion picture represents the stories familiar to Novar’s family, his father’s stories about Bedouins affected the cognition of this phenomenon in general, its high values, and respect to true Islam. Not occasionally, the film begins with the few key sentences that define general messages the audience meets during the entire film. It says, “In questions of brotherhood never refuse a guest. Be the right hand of the right when men take their stand. And if the wolves offer friendship, do not count on success. They will not stand beside you when you are facing death” (“Theeb”). Significantly, these ideas were reflected only in Arabic, which likely underlined Novar’s blood relation to oppressed people to whom he dedicated his film.
However, there is particular logic in speaking about the film propaganda of the post-colonialist and Islamic meaning, as Novar has demonstrated a strong message in terms of Islamic canons and cultural approach to brotherhood, like in the final scene when Theeb kills the Stranger. Octavio Getino and Fernando Solanas mentioned, “Culture and cinema are national not because they are located within certain geographical limits, but when they respond to the particular needs of development” (119). Thus, the film is a product of necessity of propaganda or rather a promotion of good Islamic injunctions and the establishment of historical justice about the contradictions between Arabs and Europeans.
In the social aspect, the film depicts a serious contradiction inside of the Arabic world itself. For instance, the Holy Quran and entire Islamic doctrine declare the value of brotherhood and encourage its support in the name of Allah and Mohammed, the Prophet of Him (may peace be with Him). From one side, Hussein, Theeb, and their older brother support this: they never abandon each other and care for each other even being on the edge of death. This modest example has a propaganda message as well: the Islamic world has more tightened values underestimated by the West. For instance, in the scene when Marji tells the Englishmen after he and his brothers were trapped, he says: “I will die before I abandon them” (“Theeb”). Later, the viewer hears the phrase that puts the final mark under the meanings of Arabic authenticity: “Brotherhood is more important than your railway” (“Theeb”). In bright contrast, the Stranger tells Theeb that their cohort does not appreciate brotherhood at all since they think about business and they have left him wounded alone to die in the desert. Theeb repeats his brother’s phrase “The strong eats the weak” (“Theeb”) that sounds several times in the film but every time in different connotation. Generally, it is interesting to note that despite modest textual fulfilling, the scenario has several Arabic quotes that represent the idea of the episode or entire film. One of such examples is the phrase: “The Wolf begets the Wolf” (“Theeb”), when Hassan finds out whose son Theeb is. Thus, Novar purportedly uses the play of phrases as the depiction of an Arabic outlook.
Additionally speaking about the scenario and textual issues, the film belongs to such films as Season of Migration to the North, when the scenes are almost wordless, which particularly looks like a documentary or a reality show. One can consider particularly real the blood scenes like when Hussein and Theeb kill a little sheep and the scene with the wound on Hassan’s leg, when the flies would sit on it until the wound was disinfected. Moreover, Novar touches the issues of family relationships like in the small scene when the Englishman looks at the photo of his wife or the viewer discovers Hussein’s intention to marry a Bedouin girl. Despite the fact that this issue of social family status was not developed well as the emphasis was on some other things, the film producers did not forget to remind that beyond politics and history, the film has real emotional and emphatic people.
Several images and symbolic meanings took place during the producing the film to touch the viewer on the conscious and intuitive levels, applying to historical memory and cognition, showing the propaganda outlook of producer. For instance, Novar put the figure of railway on the top place as the reason of fight between the Western and the Arabic worlds, where the West is wrong in destroying decent Bedouins. The dynamite box is the opposite symbol of freedom and return back to traditions when local inhabitants were free in their decisions, actions, and lifestyle. Particularly, Novar made this box as fetish, covered with rumor that there was stolen gold inside of it. It is evidenced in the night dialogue between Hussein and Theeb, when the boy asks: “What is in the box? – The box? – He goes crazy if I touch it. – The Englishman keeps his gold in him” (“Theeb”). Afterwards, it became the object of bargaining between the Turks, the English, and the Arabic people, who were also divided between the ones who supported the Arab Revolt and those, who considered this this period as nothing more than business.
Consequently, in terms of historical prospection, the point turns around the period of the Arabic separation when Sheikh Hussein bin Ali (who actually was mentioned in the film) declared a good will of the Arabic people not to be a part of the Ottoman Empire anymore. The Great Arab Revolt started in 1916, in the middle of World War, I when the output of the war was not even closely clear, the Turks had started building the railway that supplied weapon and other goods to the Arabic countries. However, it harmed the local tribes and majorities who lost opportunity to guide their own life the way they wanted to. Moreover, the new invasion violated the human rights of the minority tribes and women who suffered from forced slavery.
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In such conditions, the British provided the discussion whether the revolt could be profitable for London. The British were aware of the risks and, as Polly Mohs mentioned, they “insisted to Cairo that efforts to launch an Arab revolt and replace the Ottoman caliph with the Sheikh would be resented worldwide” (19), so they needed careful negotiations with the Arabs. That is why the Arabs did not get secretly any supplies to struggle against the Turks, which in turn did not encourage the Arabs as well. In the film, there is a moment when Hussein retells Theeb about his pilgrimage adventures when he was free to guide the people to Palestine, Jordan, and more Arabic states that lived under the sacral Islamic order. However, the railway has ruined this order, which actually means that the new Turkish government and new policy ruined it, not the material object by itself.
The political issue here is the familiar origin of the main characters – Theeb and his two brothers Hussein and Marji. They were the sons of Sheikh Hussein bin Ali who had actually led the Arab revolution in the struggle against the Young Turkish party domination. As the elite among Bedouins and generally respectful clan among the Arabs, the three brothers, however, could not use specific privileges in the epoch of war when Islam was not an order but an instrument for manipulation. It is obviously seen in the scene when the Stranger asks who is Sheikh for Theeb, and the boy responds: “He is my father” (“Theeb”). However, it did not stop Hassan in his intention to get silver for the betrayal of revolution supporters even though he personally suffered after the railway had been built.
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Another thing depicted is the relationship between the Westerners and the Arabs. Particularly, Britain was interested in the weakened Ottoman Empire, especially including the fact that Turkey fought on the side of Germany, Russia, and Italy that formally had been recognized as aggressors. Polly Mohs has a good remark on the interests of the British administration in Cairo that “could begin a campaign of covert support and funding of Arab opposition movements as their official strategy against the Turks (19). This statement proves that at first, the British were beware of the Arabic revolt, and later they found it profitable in terms of destructing the Arabia island order. Thus, the Englishman was delegated to implement the mission of spraying of the Turkish resource on struggle on the international and inner imperial fronts.
Thus, the film Theeb has an important value from the prospective of providing two issues such as the contrast between the Arabic inner Islamic mentality in the context of Bedouin brotherhood values and the renovation of autochthonous image of Bedouins’ life and survival. The author’s biography background and emphasis allows assuming that his post-colonial position was to show historical, social, and cultural motions that took place during the Great Arab Revolt. In general, the film shows not only the contradictions around the building and exploitation of the railway but also the strong meanings of the concept of brotherhood that pass through the entire film in obvious (quotations) and hidden (dumb scenes) allusions. The concept of brotherhood turns around the Quranic injunction that actually opens those truths.