Film co-produced by Elon alum receives Oscar nomination

Laith al-Majali '05 is part of a team that has earned the nation of Jordan its first ever Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.

Laith Majali '05 delivered Elon University's Commencement address to the Class of 2010.
Elon University alumnus Laith al-Majali ‘05 co-produced and shot still photography for a coming-of-age epic that has been nominated for a 2016 Academy Award.

“Theeb” is the first Jordanian production to ever receive an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. Nominations were publicized Jan. 14, 2016. The 88th Academy Awards ceremony will be held Feb. 28 in Hollywood.

The film, directed by Naji Abu Nowar, is the first produced by Jordan’s growing film industry to be nominated for an Oscar. Other nominations in its Foreign Language category include “A War” (Denmark), “Son of Saul” (Hungary), “Embrace of the Serpant” (Columbia) and “Mustang” (France). 

An official trailer for Majali’s film is available on YouTube.

“We are so proud of Laith’s accomplishments and his continued connection to the Elon community,” said J McMerty, director of the Elon in Los Angeles program. “I have been honored to have seen ‘Theeb’ twice in Los Angeles with Laith and his talented team of filmmakers. Not only is this film a beautiful story, but the process of production was one that will be discussed for years. This film is a testament to why the entertainment world needs more Elon graduates.” 

“Theeb” is billed as a coming-of-age tale about a young Bedouin boy named Theeb (which translates as Wolf), who guides a British officer through the Arabian desert during World War I. The film’s cast consists almost entirely of amateur actors, as Nowar chose real-life Bedouin tribesmen to play every Bedouin character in the film. This includes the title character Theeb, played by Jacir Eid Al-Hwietat.

Following its premiere at the 71st Venice International Film Festival, where it won Nowar the award for best director, “Theeb” has continued to receive regional and international accolades, as well as widespread critical acclaim. Among these honors is the best debut film award at the 2015 Beijing International Film Festival.

Majali came to Elon in 2001 as the university’s first King Hussein of Jordan Scholar. He distinguished himself as a campus leader, becoming an Isabella Cannon Leadership Fellow and Elon Ambassador, and joining the Intercultural Relations Club. In the days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Majali served as a unifying voice during campus gatherings, sharing his Arabic culture with fellow students.

Majali was active in campus media, regularly volunteering to videotape athletics events and Elon Student Television programs in addition to working on his own film projects. Called a “true student of film and photography,” he often could be found working late into the night in the School of Communications, honing his editing skills. In 2002, he received an Aegis Award for a music video he produced about his hometown.

In 2004, Majali landed a film internship in Los Angeles, where he met fellow Jordanian filmmaker Amin Matalqa. The two collaborated on “Captain Abu Raed,” the first feature film to emerge from Jordan in 50 years. After winning the World Cinema Audience Award at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Majali traveled the globe to promote the film and the Jordanian film industry.

He received Elon’s Young Alumnus of the Year Award in 2008 and, two years later, delivered the university’s Commencement address to the Class of 2010.

In summer 2015, Majali joined the Elon in LA staff to help mentor the next generation of Elon filmmakers. He is one of more than 400 alumni of the Los Angeles program.