I know that some supporters of Theeb don’t want to acknowledge this, but it’s really an Arabic western. The soundtrack by British composer Jerry Lane even has tones reminiscent of Ennio Morricone’s score of Once Upon a Time in the West.

Set during World War I, the story focuses on two recently orphaned Bedouin brothers from a family that earns its living as pilgrim guides. Now that their father has died, older brother Hussein is teaching younger brother Theeb (“Wolf”) how to survive in the desert. One night, an Arab guide appears with a British soldier. They’re on their way to railroad tracks controlled by Ottoman troops—presumably to blow them up— and they need help finding the nearest well on their way. Hussein agrees to serve as their guide. Theeb is ordered to stay behind because the route is home to bandits, but he follows the others and they are forced to accept his presence.

Sure enough, they are ambushed and, after their two companions are killed, the two brothers hide in the hills. But Hussein is also killed, and Theeb finds himself stuck with the badly injured bandit who killed his brother.

Director Naji Abu Nowar chose non-professional Jordanian locals to fill most of the roles. This technique was also used in Mustang, as well as in Guatemala’s entry, Ixcanul, Venezuela’s entry, Gone with the River, and Turkey’s entry, Sivas, among others.