Theeb, a Jordanian film about a young Bedouin boy during the first World War, has been nominated for an Academy Award.
If the coming-of-age desert drama, which was funded by film organisations in the UAE, Qatar, Jordan and the UK, wins at the ceremony on February 28, it will become the first Arab film to receive an Oscar.
Theeb is nominated for the best Foreign Language film, and will contend with Colombia’s Embrace of the Serpent, France’s Mustang, Hungary’s Son of Saul and Denmark’s A War.
— ذيب Theeb (@TheebFilm) January 14, 2016
Set in 1916 in the Ottoman province of Hijaz, the Jordanian picture follows the journey of Theeb, who guides a British officer to a secret destination.
It is Jordan’s second submission in the foreign-language race. Its director, Naji Abu Nowar, grew up in the UK and Jordan.
“An academy award nomination for Theeb means a lot to Jordanian cinema, specifically. It is also a reassurance for all independent Arab filmmakers that our local stories can go a long way in today’s world,” Niam Itani, a filmmaker who splits her time between Beirut and San Francisco, told Al Jazeera.
The film previoulsy won Best Director at the Venice International Film Festival.
It is also nominated for two British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards: “The Best film not in the English language” and “Outstanding debut by British writer, director or producer”.
“Theeb is a very poetic and poignant film. I am thrilled at this debut film making it to the Academy Award Nominations and for all my Jordanian filmmaker friends who contributed to the making of this film. Jordanian cinema is maturing fast and this is only the beginning,” Itani said.
Several other commentators celebrated the nomination on social media, including the queen of Jordan, Rania Al-Abdullah.
“Thrilled about #Theeb’s nomination for the #Oscars2016, a Jordanian production shot in the beautiful mountains of Wadi Rum. I hope it wins!” she wrote on Twitter.
— Samir Al-Rifai. سمير زيد الرفاعي (@SamirAlRifai) January 14, 2016
Bilge Ebiri, a film critic who has previously described Theeb as a “somewhat overlooked” picture, said: “Maybe now people might see Theeb.”
Elsewhere, there was criticism that every actor nominated for an Academy Award was white, a fact which renewed a hashtag from last year’s awards: #OscarsSoWhite.
Of the four acting categories including leading or supporting roles, there are no non-white contenders.
Follow Anealla Safdar on Twitter: @anealla