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Gracefully assembled and ultimately disquieting, Timbuktu is a timely film with a powerful message.
All Critics (116)
| Top Critics (33)
| Fresh (114)
| Rotten (2)
| DVD (1)
For a film that makes you sick with dread, Timbuktu has a light, at times glancing touch.
Sissako creates an interrelated series of characters and tableaux giving us scenes from the life of a traumatised nation.
Director Abderrahmane Sissako, a Muslim from neighboring Mauritania, has made a movie that is worthy of comparisons on several levels to Terrence Malick's wheat-field tragedy "Days of Heaven."
The performances are hushed and memorable. Cinematographer Sofian El Fanicaptures the beauty of this desert land. Amine Bouhafa's score is its own act of gorgeous grace and defiance.
Even though the atrocities committed by radical jihadists dominate the headlines and airwaves, few in the West know what it's like to live under their reign. Timbuktu...is a moving, haunting and beautifully shot peek behind the closed cultural curtain.
This is the clash of ancient and modern, of rulers and ruled, of rabid dogma and the joys of daily life. It is a portrait of the ugly folly of imposed ideology, a too-common condition for far too many.
A work of staggering dramatic and ethnographic lucidity: a crystal-clear ode to life in a harsh outpost of Mali, namely the northerly, desert-laden city of Timbuktu.
Obviously made on a low, low budget with many non-actors, this is nevertheless often visually gorgeous and feels painfully real.
Unfortunately, "Timbuktu" falls a little short when it tries to show resistance to the fundamentalists.
Structural neatness is not simply an interpretive shortcut, but a token of Sissako's adroitness at pivoting between individual dramas and the overarching social and political systems to which they are so inextricably bound.
For a century or more the name Timbuktu has been shorthand for an impossibly remote exoticism, at least to Western ears, but with clarity and compassion Sissako dissolves any barriers to understanding, and insists on common cause.
Calling Sissako a brilliant filmmaker is an understatement.
A devastating portrait of religious hell as a place under the rule of jihadists who employ abuse, intimidation and horrendous punishments on those who disobey their abominable laws - proof that, as Steven Weinberg said it, "for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."
The film's narrative proves to be a strong argument against religious extremism (essentially by arguing that no one could ever follow such strict rules to the letter, even those enforcing them) despite never feeling that it has an ax to grind.
In a city in the middle of the desert, so-called Islamist militants have occupied it by gunpoint and started issuing arbitrary restrictions, leading up to the most serious punishment for adultery. At the same time, they show no respect for the residents' traditions while quoting Koran verses out of context to suit their own nefarious purposes. For example, Abdelkerim(Abel Jafri) looks in on a married woman whenever he knows her husband is not at home which she finds offensive.
With his previous film "Bamako" and now his latest "Timbuktu," director Abderrahmane Sissako has lots to say which is always commendable. What is not so much except for some memorable imagery like a soccer game being played without a ball and a woman with a big bird on her shoulder blocking the way of an SUV is his still not quite figuring out how to put his thoughts into a narrative context which Margaret Atwood did so well in her similarly themed novel 'A Handmaid's Tale.' In fact, "Timbuktu" has little momentum at all, simply circling back to the deer hunt at the beginning of the movie. This is a shame because there is a lot here that could certainly be considered relevant.
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