Timbuktu (12a)

Feb 01, 2017
Cranbrook Film Society

“Abderrahmane Sissako’s film about religious intolerance is full of life, irony and poetry.”
Tim Robey- Telegraph.

Kidane and his family live in tune with their environment in the dunes outside Timbuktu while armed jihadi prowl the streets forbidding life’s pleasures to the inhabitants. Then an incident changes Kidane’s family forever. A deeply moving film.

Abderrahmane Sissako | France/Mauritania | 2014 | 97 mins | 12a


“Abderrahmane Sissako confirms his status as one of the true humanists of recent cinema with this stunningly shot and deeply empathetic drama” – Jay Weissberg (Variety).

Timbuktu became a meeting point between North, South and West Africa as well as a melting pot for black Africans, Berbers, Arabs and Tuareg desert nomads. In April 2012 the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and the Al Qaeda linked Ansar Dine took over Timbuktu in the African country of Mali and placed it under Sharia Law. Kidane, a local herder lived peacefully in the countryside outside Timbuktu with his wife (Satima), daughter (Toya) and their orphaned twelve-year-old shepherd (Issan). All their neighbours had fled or died when the Jihadists arrived. Kidane had refused to leave. It was a peaceful life as he played his guitar and passed the days with his wife and family. He was tired of running away and being humiliated. But soon their lives were to change dramatically.

Meanwhile in Timbuktu the people were suffering under the regime of Jihadists determine to control their faith. Music (Timbuktu had been hosting a world music festival for many years), laughter, cigarettes and soccer had been banned. Women accustomed to the colours and plumes of West Africa had to cover up every inch of flesh. The scene where the boys were playing football without a football present was hilarious and defiant at the same time. Many of the Jihadists were young and inexperienced and were confused by the defiance and disrespect shown to them. Without force Jihad would not succeed in Timbuktu.

Sissako links the countryside and town to build up the tension to the tragic finale. This film is a stunningly shot condemnation of intolerance and its annihilation of diversity. Some of Timbuktu’s cultural heritage was destroyed or vandalised during this occupation. The Timbuktu manuscripts were the largest collection of written knowledge south of the Sahara. They had been written between the 13th and 19th centuries and contained single-copy texts that ranged from theology to mathematics, medicine, astrology and music. The Jihadists made it their top priority to destroy all these manuscripts. The local population had hidden many of them during the fighting at the start of the invasion. Some manuscripts were sacrificed to appease the Jihadists. Many others were saved and moved to Bamako.

The Jihadists had done their best to convert Timbuktu’s Muslims to the ‘correct kind of Muslims!’ The French intervened in 2013 and overran the Jihadists. The Jihadists had been unable to convert a single Timbuktu resident to their form of Islam.

Timbuktu was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards in 2015. It was nominated for the Palme D’Or and won numerous other awards and nominations.
Chris Gracia


            Weighted vote 82.8%