timbuktu posterThe opening scene of Timbuktu summarizes pretty well the theme of this film. A group of armed jihadists are chasing an antelope. They are shooting their AK47 not to kill it but to scare this animal, which is a metaphor for a young orphan seen running at the end of the movie. Those two scenes aim at underlining the premise of this work which is clearly designed to take on the Sharia, an Islamic moral code and religious law.

Life isn’t easy in Timbuktu, a Malian city which used to be a spiritual capital of Islam in the 15th and 16th centuries. Religious extremists are in control, abusing their power and imposing absurd rules, from banning soccer and music (whether it’s playing it or listening to it) to forcing workers to wear gloves. However, when it comes to themselves, they seem to be above the law, as we can notice while listening to them talk about the 1998 Soccer World Cup.

While focusing on the villagers’ daily routine, the filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako mocks religious fanatics and, most particularly, their simplistic interpretation of the scriptures as well as their inconsistencies. In one scene, they insist on marrying women without their consent even when a local imam peacefully explains to them they misinterpreted the scriptures. Further down the road, we follow the fate of a shepherd who, after having accidentally killed a fisherman, is judged quickly and coldly executed. And if the threat of being shot or stoned to death wasn’t enough, there is also punishment by lashes.

Mr. Sissako delivers an ironic and subtle portrait, showing how the locals try to build an ordinary life despite a constant religious menace. While the atmosphere might be suffocating, there are still moments of poetry, most especially during a sequence where kids play soccer without a ball, thus bypassing the ban. The camera follows the invisible ball and shows us their game moves. The beauty of their movements rises against terror, making this a brilliant moment of cinema.

Director: Abderrahmane Sissako – Actors: Ahmed Ibrahim , Toulou Kiki, Jafri – Running time : 1:40 – Year: 2014 – Country: France, Mauritania

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Moland Fengkov

Moland Fengkov

Based in Paris, Moland is a journalist and photographer; He is more particularly responsible for covering the Cannes film festival for Plume Noire, writing movie reviews and taking gorgeous pictures.
Moland Fengkov

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