THE WOODLAND and the tragic inner workings of estranged families

10 July 2024
The global film industry is no stranger to films focused on conflicts around inheritance; and while these films may be more commonplace in the Middle East, where families feuding over scraps in the aftermath of a loved one’s death are a regular occurrence, there’s a universality to these issues that are brought about by humankind’s natural tendency toward greed.
Enter Firas Al-Taybeh’s THE WOODLAND: A short that tackles a common issue with a new depth, reminding us all that family matters are never cut and dry, that there are often so many crucial details that some members of the family are not privy to that can be confusing and foster resentment, and that estrangement — while a diplomatic and at times peaceful option — sometimes does not heal nor address what has been said nor done in anger or grief. 
This unaddressed history is the focal point of THE WOODLAND, as two resentful brothers who haven’t seen each other in years reunite on the fringes of the woods of their small agrarian town in Jordan to bury their recently passed father. As they drive their father’s body up the hill in a rickety tractor to its final resting place, the two brothers bicker about their inheritance and what they should do about it, each thinking their claim more righteous or sensible than the other’s based on what they’ve contributed to the family and their shortcomings.
However, soon enough their heated debate is cut short when a mechanical failure sends the cart carrying their father flying into the treeline out of sight. As they separate to navigate the dense and oppressive woods in search of the misplaced body, they pick up where they left off, each one taking turns to reveal a family secret or a personal sacrifice the other is oblivious to.
As they trade jabs, half-hearted attempts at reconciliation, and desperate pleas, we as viewers may be reminded of our own complicated family lives. And while the stories, sacrifices, points of contention, and outcomes may be different, what we all share is a mess of a dynamic that is at times equal parts love and hate and as difficult to navigate as the dark and disorienting woods.
THE WOODLAND is set to hold its Jordanian premiere at the ongoing edition of the Amman International Film Festival - Awal Film (running till the 11th), where it will be competing in its Short Film Competition.
The film is written and directed by Al-Taybeh; produced by Majd Hijjawi and Ahmed Amer; lensed by Ghassan Nazmi; edited by Eyad Hamam; and stars Khaled Al-Ghwairi and “O” Oday Fawaz.
Firas Al-Taybeh is a Jordanian filmmaker and actor who initially pursued his passion for the arts at Jordan University, before honing his skills in filmmaking at the prestigious Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts.
With over five years of experience teaching at SAE College Jordan, Al-Taybeh has written and directed a number of acclaimed fiction and documentary short films, including AL WADI and AN INVISIBLE FACE. As an actor, his diverse filmography spans features, drama series, and shorts such as FARHA, WHEN I SAW YOU, and KABREET 45.