x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Jordanian film Theeb nominated for Academy Award

The movie, a coming-of-age drama set in the First World War-era Jordanian desert, features a cast made up largely of Bedouins with no previous acting experience.

Theeb is the first film from Jordan nominated for an Academy Award. Laith Al-Majali
Theeb is the first film from Jordan nominated for an Academy Award. Laith Al-Majali

The film Theeb, co-produced in the UAE, has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

The movie, a coming-of-age drama set in the First World War-era Jordanian desert, features a cast made up largely of Bedouins with no previous acting experience.

It was partly funded by Abu Dhabi’s Sanad grant for film and development, and previously picked up two awards when it screened at the 2014 Abu Dhabi Film Festival: Best Film from the Arab World; and the Fipresci Prize for Best Narrative Feature.

British-Jordanian director Naji Abu Nowar was also named Variety’s Arab Filmmaker of the Year.

The film also earned two Bafta nominations, one for Best Film Not in the English Language, and one for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer, for Abu Nowar and producer Robert Lloyd. The Baftas take place in London on February 14, two weeks before the Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles on February 28.

Abu Nowar told The National at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival that he was surprised by the film’s international success.

“It sounds bad to say I’m surprised how well it’s done with various audiences,” he said after its Abu Dhabi screening.

“In our first four festival appearances we had three standing ovations, which is crazy. I think it’s partly that this is a culture that hasn’t been shown on film before. There’ve been some shoots in the locations, but this has the whole culture.”

There was disappointment for another locally supported film, however.

The Image Nation-produced He Named Me Malala, which tells the story of Pakistani girls’ education advocate and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, had made the initial longlist for Best Feature Documentary, but did not manage a nomination.

It missed out on the shortlist to Amy, Cartel Land, The Look of Silence, What Happened, Miss Simone? and Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom.

Another regional success, Palestinian director Basil Khalil’s Ave Maria picked up a nomination for Best Live Action Short.

cnewbould@thenational.ae