There is not much one can say about Timbuktu, except that it is perfect. A French-Mauritanian film, it chronicles Mali’s brief occupation by Islamist group Ansar Dine. Smoking, music and soccer have been banned, women must wear gloves and Sharia tribunals are punishing the people who are not following those strict rules. A woman is sentenced to 40 lashes for singing and 40 lashes for being in the same room as a man not of her family. Adulterers are stoned to death. A woman argues that she can’t sell and handle fish with gloves and an Imam is trying to get more rights from the Islamists. Some Islamists are seen smoking or discussing their favorite soccer team. Another one is trying to force a young woman to marry her. It helps to put a human non-judgemental perspective. I found the female characters to be of strong will and mind. There are also moments of humor despite the drama. A crazy woman walks around with a rooster on her shoulder and laughs heartily at the absurdity of the Islamists. The scenes are perfectly composed and directed. It is perfect because it all seem to be effective, both technically and thematically. A main storyline concerns cattle herder Kidane, who lives in the desert with his wife and daughter. When one of his cow gets caught in a fishing net and the fisherman kills the cow, Kidane confronts the fisherman and accidentally shoots him. At the same time you are emotionally compelled by all these stories, it is the most beautiful cinematography by Sofian El Fani that paints the film with poetic touches. That is done with delicate subtleties and a lack of melodramatic antics. Beautiful and perfect.

And the Oscar and César went to… Although Timbuktu is a French-Mauritanian co-production, Timbuktu was selected to represent Mauritania, and received this country’s first nomination as Best foreign language film. unfortunately, the Oscar went to Poland’s Ida. I found both Timbuktu and Argentina’s Wild tales to be better candidates. The French Oscars are called “César”. And Timbuktu was the big winner because it is a French-Mauritanian co-production. It waked away with the César for Best film, director, original screenplay, cinematography, music, editing and sound. Seven out of eight. Not bad.

Rémi-Serge Gratton


Directed by:
Abderrahmane Sissako
Screenplay by:
Abderrahmane Sissako
Ibrahim Ahmed
Abel Jafri
Toulou Kiki
Layla Walet Mohamed
Adel Mahmoud Cherif
97 min.
In Tuareg, Bambara, Arabic,
French, and English with English subtitles

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