“And the Oscar goes to…”
Jordan's safe urban centers are currently standing in for Baghdad, Beirut, and other fascinating and outlandish locations like Mars amongst others, so much so that there were three Oscar-nominated films this year that were shot in the Wadi Rum region of Jordan; "Theeb", "A War" and "The Martian". This is a clear indication of how visually attractive Jordan is.
Speaking of ‘Theeb’, The film premiered in the Horizons section at the 71st Venice International Film Festival on 4 September 2014, where Mr. Abu Nowar won the award for Best Director. At the 69th British Academy Film Awards, Theeb was nominated for Best Film Not in the English Language, where the directors also won the prize of Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer. "We got a 10-minute standing ovation," said director and co-writer Naji Abu Nowar, who won for best director in the "Orrizonti" (Horizons) category in Venice.
“The Bedouins are famed for their stiff upper lipped culture, and you never see anyone cry, not even the children ... and to see tears coming down their faces [during the premiere] was a really powerful moment," he said, speaking from the Palm Springs International Film Festival, a last pre-Oscar opportunity to promote foreign films
The film’s producers collaborated with the Bedouin tribes to ensure the authentic depiction of life in the region. The cast was entirely formed from the local tribesmen of these communities, who have lived in the area for hundreds of years, after they were engaged in acting workshops in the eight months prior to principal photography.
The actors have since resumed their lives in Shakriyeh, a small Bedouin village nestled among striking rock formations rising from the desert floor of Wadi Rum.
Being the first submission ever from Jordan to the Academy for consideration for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 88th Academy Awards, it competed with 81 other submissions from countries all over the world. The list was then slowly sifted by the Academy members to 9 submissions, 5 of which are actually nominated for an Oscar.
So What are the chances? Theeb had been heralded as the biggest surprise of the five films and a first Oscar nomination for the small Jordanian film industry - though the director is British-born and educated. More than one reviewer and critic has pointed out the adventure has the feel of a western. The striking locations do evoke the imagination. The central performance is absolutely engaging. Theeb is in to win.
Hassan Maraaiah and Jacir Eid, who played the titular characters, have travelled to the US on Thursday morning to attend the Oscars ceremony, where they hope the film will clinch the award for best foreign language picture. And like others in the film industry, they have already thought about what to wear for the big night — black robes, the Bedouin version of formal attire, instead of the beige ones for every day, said Jacir's father.