How we filmed our Bedouin western in the heat of the desert

How many bottles of water do you need for a five-week shoot in the desert? And what should the crew do when a sandstorm hits? Go behind the scenes of the new British-Jordanian epic, Theeb.

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Jacir Eid, who plays the title role of Theeb, stares out into the vastness of the Wadi Rum desert, his home and the film’s shooting location

Jacir Eid, who plays the title role of Theeb, stares out into the vastness of the Wadi Rum desert, his home and the film’s shooting location

In 2012, Anglo-Jordanian director Naji Abu Nowar and British producer Rupert Lloyd moved to Wadi Rum to make their Bedouin western, Theeb [Wolf], with the last settled Bedouin tribe in Jordan. This was to be their home for a year. Cast exclusively from within the community – with the exception of Jack Fox – and with many of the props built by the women of the Howeitat tribe, Theeb offers an authentic Bedouin experience. “The Bedouin are not the subjects of the film but the co-authors,” Nowar is eager to stress.

After weathering sandstorms, flash floods, soaring tempertaures, and a number of hospitalisations, Theeb premiered at the 71st Venice Film Festival in 2014 to a 10-minute standing ovation and ended with Abu Nowar taking home the best director Lion (Orizzonti). Take a look behind the scenes of what Variety describe as “a classic adventure film of the best kind”.

Steadicam operator Doug Walshe lines up a shot using an improvised ‘camel rig’

Steadicam operator Doug Walshe lines up a shot using an improvised ‘camel rig’

The cast perform a scene in the military zone in Wadi Arabah, which lies on the border with Israel, seen in the distance. The production had to obtain special permission to shoot here and had to be accompanied by the army at all times

The cast perform a scene in the military zone in Wadi Arabah, which lies on the border with Israel, seen in the distance. The production had to obtain special permission to shoot here and had to be accompanied by the army at all times

The water required for a five-week shoot in the desert. Producer Rupert Lloyd rests after two hours of underloading the delivery

The water required for a five-week shoot in the desert. Producer Rupert Lloyd rests after two hours of underloading the delivery

Jacir Eid readies for a take

Jacir Eid readies for a take

Jack Fox, who plays a British Army Officer, takes a moment to absorb the power of the oncoming sandstorm. Jack was the only professional actor in the film

Jack Fox, who plays a British Army Officer, takes a moment to absorb the power of the oncoming sandstorm. Jack was the only professional actor in the film

The crew scrambles moments before a sandstorm tears through the set. Actor Jack Fox takes an inventive approach to finding shelter

The crew scrambles moments before a sandstorm tears through the set. Actor Jack Fox takes an inventive approach to finding shelter

Cinematographer Wolfgang Thaler studies a new perspective

Cinematographer Wolfgang Thaler studies a new perspective

Jack Fox shelters from the sun in a traditional Bedouin tent between scenes. Temperatures were regularly above 40C (104F)

Jack Fox shelters from the sun in a traditional Bedouin tent between scenes. Temperatures were regularly above 40C (104F)

Co-producer Laith Majali regularly opted for less conventional ways of getting to set

Co-producer Laith Majali regularly opted for less conventional ways of getting to set

Cinematographer Wolfgang Thaler and director Naji Abu Nowar discuss the next scene

Cinematographer Wolfgang Thaler and director Naji Abu Nowar discuss the next scene

Jack Fox with his rather badly behaved camel

Jack Fox with his rather badly behaved camel

Clapper loader Anna Hawliczek expressing her love for the ‘ships of the desert’

Clapper loader Anna Hawliczek expressing her love for the ‘ships of the desert’

Jacir Eid in the spotlight on a night shoot

Jacir Eid in the spotlight on a night shoot

Cinematographer Wolfgang Thaler getting his light metre out for the last time on the final day of filming in Deba’a

Cinematographer Wolfgang Thaler getting his light metre out for the last time on the final day of filming in Deba’a

Sound designer Dario Swade in the mix in Technicolor, London

Sound designer Dario Swade in the mix in Technicolor, London

Watch the Theeb trailer

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