Credit: Laith Majali
There’s a strong element of nature in your film. Did you intend to focus on that from the beginning?
I actually wanted to go a bit further: one of the restrictions we had with the shooting budget was that the schedule was too tight to be able to capture the Bedouins’ relationship with their surroundings. I would have liked to go a lot further with that because that’s absolutely essential to their way of life.
In the story, Theeb and his brother Hussein show few concerns for politics. How important are politics to your work?
One of the problems a lot of artists in the Middle East face is that they only get their work funded if it’s about a political subject matter – one that’s something to do with one of the conflicts going on at the moment. A lot of people call it the burden of representation. So if you’re from a certain place that has got a conflict, you have to make a film about that conflict otherwise you’re not going to get the funding.
For me, I think it’s very important that artists have the right just to tell a story or express themselves for the sake of doing it, and that they’re not suddenly dismissed because they haven’t given their political stance about a particular conflict. I’m in this for cinema. I’m not a politician trying to use cinema as a way of expressing myself. My politics is cinema, that’s what I love, that’s what I’m interested in and I hope that Theeb will just be allowed to be a film for that sake. I hope that people will judge it as they would judge any film rather than trying to ascribe some political message.
What was it like working in such terrific locations, with non-professional actors, and how did you find Jacir Eid, the actor who plays Theeb?
It was an amazing experience. Jack Fox was the only professional actor. The rest of the cast all came from the Bedouin community. They were found as non-actors and they were trained for eight months. Jacir Eid was a young boy from the village and he had that magic that you can’t really teach. The only very strict order that was given to the entire crew was to not, under any circumstances, give Jacir too much Pepsi.