Timbuktu (2014)
June 12, 2017 5:37 AM - Subscribe

A cattle herder and his family who reside in the dunes of Timbuktu find their quiet lives -- which are typically free of the Jihadists determined to control their faith -- abruptly disturbed. A look at the brief occupation of Timbuktu by militant Islamic rebels.

Showing up as one of A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis's 25 best films of the 21st century so far, Timbuktu is a personal film for director Abderrahmane Sissako, that's creation was sparked by a takeover of Aguelhok in northern Mali by the militant Islamist group Ansar Dine. The Guardian spoke with Sissako in 2015 and captured his response to the actions in his film:

“The most terrible thing about this is that they are people like us. It’s always hard to say. But they are.” Then the film darkens. You can almost sense Sissako raging off-camera. “It’s the only film of my own that makes me cry. I’ve cried several times watching it.”

Intended initially as a documentary, Sissako realized that such an attempt couldn't be realized when people would not be able to speak freely with jihadis still present in the area. The production was moved to Mauritania and changed into a fictional accounting reliant on the events which took place in Mali.

Sissako wished to show people what it is like for those living in areas with militant groups instead of the more usual focus on their effect on the West. One further quote from the Guardian on the complexity of the issue:

To Sissako, himself a Muslim, the other hostage in Timbuktu is Islam. He says he doesn’t recognise his own faith in Ansar Dine. Their violence “makes Islam into something imaginary”.

Like Sissako's superb 2002 film, Waiting for Happiness, Timbuktu is an understated film with subtle moments of beauty matched against moments of quiet desperation. It's a movie with deep compassion for the lives of those it examines. It's sometimes bleak, but never despairing.

Is it one of the 25 best films of the century? Who knows for sure? All I can say is I wouldn't really argue against anyone counting it as such.

Al Jazeera link to a video interview with Sissako on his film and the events in Mali that inspired them.

New Yorker review of the film.

Film Comment review
posted by gusottertrout (2 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Ah, I almost forgot. A word of warning about the film, it does contain a scene of a cow being killed. It isn't especially gory or anything, but it does appear to be genuine, not faked.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:13 AM on June 12, 2017

I saw this movie referenced in the list of the best 25, and had to find it. Glad I did. I have known a Muslim family for a long time and I can see them in a similar way dealing with the contrasts of the world(s) we live in. Timbuktu is an expression of the clash between those worlds - eg the mobile phones, the motor bikes, shariah law and what is of god.

I don't think they'd appreciate the message it has, though. I just loved the football match, but then, I got it.

It really was about love, in the end.
posted by arzakh at 5:38 AM on June 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

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