by Rosie Alfatlawi
Wadi Rum is perhaps Jordan’s most prolific movie star. Its distinctive orange sands and dramatic sandstone mountains are unmistakable in the 1962 epic Lawrence of Arabia.
But the valley’s film career did not stop there. Here are just a few features starring Rum - did you spot them all?
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Its most recent role, Wadi Rum appeared in this 2016 film as Jedha - the fictional desert moon, that is, not the Saudi city!
A swooping panorama shot of the distinctive Wadi was the best bit of the whole thing for this Jordan-loving expat. But don’t tell that to millions of Star Wars fans who helped the film to bring in over a billion dollars worldwide, making it the second-highest grossing film of last year!
Starring Wadi Rum as itself, 2014 picture Theeb (or ‘Wolf’ in English), follows the story of a young boy trying to survive in the desert during the First World War.
Directed by British-Jordanian Naji Abu Nowar, and filmed in Arabic, Theeb was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards. While it failed to bring home the Oscar, it won a selection of other awards, including a BAFTA for “Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer.”
The Last Days on Mars
Not the last film in our selection to exploit Wadi Rum’s ‘martian’ landscape, but probably the least successful. The 2013 science fiction-horror film has a rating of only 20% on review site Rotten Tomatoes.
Still, 110% for effort, as reportedly all of Wadi Rum’s vegetation had to be digitally removed after filming!
Ridley Scott’s 2015 science-fiction masterpiece features an all-star cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig and, of course, Wadi Rum.
While most of it was shot on a film set in Hungary, the Jordanian desert hosted film crews - including Matt Damon! - for eight days in March 2015.
In fact, The Martian and The Last Days on Mars are by no means the only movies to feature the UNESCO World Heritage Site as Mars. The turn of the millennium saw a sudden obsession with all things martian: the year 2000 produced Red Planet and Mission to Mars both shot - you guessed it - in Wadi Rum.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Keen to prove it is not just a (martian) one-trick pony, Wadi Rum showed its versatility in the 2009 Golden-Raspberry-Worst-Picture-winning Transformers sequel, in which it featured as ‘generic Middle Eastern landscape’.
Not its greatest hour - still the movie grossed $836.3 million worldwide, so it’s not all bad!
May in the Summer
This Jordan-American-Qatari production again stars Wadi Rum as itself - but it could not be more different to Theeb. Exploring family pressures and interracial marriage in modern Amman, the comedy-drama received modest reviews when it was released in 2014.
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