TimbuktuDirector: Abderrahmane Sissako
Mauritania, France, Qatar | Bambara, Arabic
Subtitles: Arabic, English
The timeliness of Timbuktu couldn’t be more apt, yet it’s not the film’s relevance to contemporary events that makes it so extraordinary, but its deep compassion. Since the late 1990s, Abderrahmane Sissako has been at the forefront of African filmmakers thanks to stunningly composed works highlighting the humanity of his characters. Few directors so demonstrably love and respect their creations as does Sissako, who infallibly imbues them with intelligence and dignity. His latest film, one of the most warmly received in Cannes this year, is no exception.
Timbuktu takes place just after the multiethnic city of libraries, mosques and historic shrines was taken over by fanatical jihadists and focuses on the lives of several residents forced to accept foreign interpretations of their religion. Musicians are punished, a Tuareg family is torn apart and any sense of individuality—of life, really—is systematically being snuffed out by a ragtag group of outsiders whose narrow interpretation of Islam seems bent on negating the human experience. While it’s a powerful cry against extremism, Timbuktu is no manipulative piece of agitprop but a deeply shaded condemnation of intolerance. As always it’s the women who are the most vulnerable, yet thanks to their sharp understanding and earthy affinities, they are also sources of strength. Through their resistance, hope may be kept alive—though always at a terrible price.