'Theeb' director says film has been struggle to make

Naji Abu Nowar, director of Jordanian film "Theeb" that has got a foreign-language film Oscar nomination, said the film has been a struggle to make.

"Theeb" recounts the tale of boy coming of age in the Ottoman-ruled Middle East during the First World War.

Nowar told Xinhua in a recent interview in London that the film was a "Bedouin Western."

It is set among the Bedouin people of what was called the Hejaz Province of Arabia at the time of the film, 100 years ago, and Nowar, who is Jordanian, spent a year living in the area himself with the Bedouin as part of the research for the film.

"Everything comes from our experience with the Bedouin, how we chose what period it was set in, what the story was, the music," said Nowar. "That began at the beginning of 2010/12 and went through to 2012, an eight months workshop of acting."

Parts of the region are now some of the most strife-torn places in the world, but for Nowar Jordan was a safe place.

"One of the sad things tourists do not go that much because of what they have seen in Syria and Iraq, but Jordan is a safe country. I am half British and half Jordanian, so I always knew that and that it would be fine to make films in that area. One of the added bonuses of this film is that it has shown that there is more to the region than just conflict," he said.

But the roots of the current war in Syria and the strife in the region can trace many of their origins back to 100 years ago, in the era in which the film is set when the Ottoman Empire found itself part of the wider conflict of the First World War.

Nowar did not intend the film to be political. He said, "I make films because I love cinema. I'm not really about the politics. But I think it is very relevant today."

"Everything that is happening today is happening because of what was happening in the film and the backdrop of the film. If you want to understand what is happening in the Middle East you need to watch films like this," he said.

Nowar said that the film, whose gestation has taken several years and which began before the conflict in Syria, caught the mood of the region in conflict. " I wish I could say I had predicted it but I didn't. I think it was in the zeitgeist. As we were writing the film it was something that all of the people in the region were feeling and it just happened that way," he said.

The film has been a struggle to make, and Nowar said that it started as a piece of "guerilla filmmaking" with just a three-man team, but grew and grew.

"It is still a very low budget independent film, under the budget of most documentaries," he said. "For us to go on this amazing journey... get to the point where it is now nominated for Oscars is an incredible thing. We are proud for what this does for filmmaking in Jordan."

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