A film made in the Jordanian desert with almost no trained actors just might win an Oscar at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony.
“We are so happy. This is a win for everyone in Jordan. It’s a dream for everyone who worked on the film,” Bassel Ghandour, producer and co-writer of Theeb, told the Associated Press.
Theeb, which means “wolf” in Arabic, is Jordan’s first Oscar nominated film — but Arab cinema has been well represented in recent years. Just two years ago, films from Egypt, Yemen and the Palestinian Territories were in the running for an Oscar win.
Theeb, Naji Abu Nowar’s directorial debut, is competing with four other films in the Best Foreign Language Film category.
“It feels really fantastic because what I have been dreaming to do was to make the kind of Arabic film that I wanted to watch, and that my friends and colleagues wanted to watch,” Abu Nowar told filmcomment.
Abu Nowar was named Best Director at the Venice International Film Festival in 2014 for Theeb, and the film was named Best Arab Film at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival that same year.
Set in 1916 after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the film tells a story of brotherhood and betrayal as seen through the eyes of a Bedouin boy. Abu Nowar hired Bedouins — none of whom were trained actors — to create a sense of realism.
“We wanted the film to be [as] authentic as possible because the Bedouin have a very specific culture, specific dialect, so we wanted to use them as actors,” he told National Public Radio.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hosts the Academy Awards ceremony. The first awards were given in 1929, and the Best Foreign Language Film category was introduced in 1956.
This year, 81 countries submitted entries for Best Foreign Language Film. (Here’s a story on the 2014 nominees.) Voting by an Academy committee reduces the number of entries every year to 5 finalists.
The 2016 Academy Awards ceremony will be held February 28 in Hollywood, California.