Oscar Nominees: “Timbuktu”

Every day brings more talk about movies I want to see. Add “Timbuktu” to the list. The French-Mauritanian film dramatizes the brutalities and absurdities of fanatical jihadists who seize control in the West African nation of Mali. It premiered at Cannes last May, and now it’s nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign language film.

“Abderrahmane Sissako’s passionate and visually beautiful film Timbuktu is a cry from the heart – with all the more moral authority for being expressed with such grace and such care,” Peter Bradshaw writes in The Guardian.  “There are some brilliant visual moments… young men carry on playing football after football has been banned by miming the game. They rush around the field with an invisible football, earnestly playing a match by imagining where the ball should be. It is a funny, sly, heartbreaking scene, reminiscent of anti-Soviet satire.”

That comparison sealed the deal for me.

  • Cannes 2014: Timbuktu review – searing fundamentalist drama | Film | The Guardian 051414
    Peter Bradshaw: “Abderrahmane Sissako’s passionate and visually beautiful film Timbuktu is a cry from the heart – with all the more moral authority for being expressed with such grace and such care. It is a portrait of the country of his childhood, the west African state of Mali, and in particular the city of Timbuktu, whose rich and humane traditions are being trampled, as Sissako sees it, by fanatical jihadis, often from outside the country. The story revolves around the death of a cow, affectionately named “GPS” – an appropriate symbol for a country that has lost its way. | These Islamist zealots are banning innocent pleasures such as music and football, and throwing themselves with cold relish into lashings and stonings for adultery. The new puritans appal the local imam, who has long upheld the existing traditions of a benevolent and tolerant Islam; they march into the mosque carrying arms. Besides being addicted to cruelty and bullying, these men are enslaved to their modern devices – mobile phones, cars, video-cameras (for uploading jihadi videos to the internet) and, of course, weapons. Timbuktu is no longer tombouctou la mysterieuse, the magical place of legend, but a harsh, grim, unforgiving place of bigotry and fear. | There are some brilliant visual moments: the panoramic vision of the river in which Kidane and the fisherman stagger apart, at different ends of the screen, is superb, composed with a panache that David Lean might have admired. When a jihadi comes close to admitting he is infatuated with Satima, Sissako shows us the undulating dunes with a strategically placed patch of scrub. It is a sudden, Freudian vision of a woman’s naked body, which is then made the subject of a bizarre, misogynist attack. | Elsewhere, young men carry on playing football after football has been banned by miming the game. They rush around the field with an invisible football, earnestly playing a match by imagining where the ball should be. It is a funny, sly, heartbreaking scene, reminiscent of anti-Soviet satire. In another scene, a young man is being coached on how to describe his religious conversion for a video (for an awful moment, it looks as if it might be a suicide-bomber “martyrdom” video). The boy talks about how he used to love rap music, but no longer. Yet in the face of the hectoring and maladroit direction, the boy lowers his head: he finds he cannot mouth these dogmatic platitudes.”
  • ‘Timbuktu’ Strikes a Nerve in France Post Charlie Hebdo Attack | Variety 012315
    Elsa Keslassy: “PARIS– Abderrahmane Sissako’s “Timbuktu,” a foreign-language Oscar nominee, is turning out to be a significant world cinema hit in France in the wake of the terrorist attacks that hit Paris. | Sissako told Variety that he decided to embark into “Timbuktu” after hearing about the stoning of a woman. “It deeply revolted me, and I felt the urge to make this film,” said the helmer, who also emphasized that his movie is meant to show that “Islam has nothing to do with barbarism and jihadists: Islam itself has been held hostage.” | As it resonates with current events, “Timbuktu” has proven even more relevant in the aftermath of the Paris’ terrorist attacks orchestrated by Al Qaeda that killed 17 people at Charlie Hebdo and the Kosher supermarket. | The film has also sparked some controversy. “Timbuktu” was indeed banned from being shown in Villiers-sur-Marne, a Parisian suburb, because the major, Jacques-Alain Bénisti – who admitted he hadn’t watched the film — feared it would incite young people to become Jihadists. Benisti later back down and allowed it to be released.”
  • Timbuktu – Trailer – YouTube
    Academy Award Nominee, Best Foreign Language Film 2015 | Abderrahmane Sissako’s film is a beautiful, serene slice of life outside of Timbuktu. Mauritania’s first-ever submission of a film for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award.
  • Timbuktu – Cohen Media Group
    Synopsis: Not far from Timbuktu, now ruled by the religious fundamentalists, Kidane lives peacefully in the dunes with his wife Satima, his daughter Toya, and Issan, their twelve-year-old shepherd. In town, the people suffer, powerless, from the regime of terror imposed by the Jihadists determined to control their faith. Music, laughter, cigarettes, even soccer have been banned. The women have become shadows but resist with dignity. Every day, the new improvised courts issue tragic and absurd sentences. Kidane and his family are being spared the chaos that prevails in Timbuktu. But their destiny changes when Kidane accidentally kills Amadou, the fisherman who slaughtered “GPS,” his beloved cow. He now has to face the new laws of the foreign occupants. Timbuktu is Mauritania’s first entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award.
  • Controversy Swirls Around Oscar-Nominated Film – The Takeaway 012815
    Today, a highly acclaimed new film hits theaters across the U.S. It’s called “Timbuktu,” and it’s a French-Mauritanian drama directed by Abderrahmane Sissako. | Nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign language film, it’s also won awards on the festival circuit and has earned rave reviews from critics. |But while art-house film lovers will be seeing it across the U.S. in the coming days, in some parts of the world, including the suburbs of France, screenings have been pushed back or canceled. |In Villiers-sur-Marne, for example, the mayor canceled screenings, suggesting that Timbuktu “makes an apology for terrorism,” according to news outlet Le Figaro. |Hussein Rashid is professor of religion at Hofstra University. He joins us to share his thoughts on the film, and the controversy surrounding it.

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