Watch it now
News & Interviews for Timbuktu
Critic Reviews for Timbuktu
For a film that makes you sick with dread, Timbuktu has a light, at times glancing touch.
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.
Audience Reviews for Timbuktu
Arabic (mostly) with subtitles Directed by the writer Abderrahmane Sissako, the film shows the imposition of Isis as it arrives in Timbuktu and the surrounding desert. It's very quietly spoken film with no gratuitous violence, and no particular central character either. The jihadist impose their arbitary rules with the force of the gun behind them. The villagers and the herdsmen in the desert just want to get on with their daily life, quietly pious and friendly to each other. A jihadist declares with loudspeaker - all women must wear gloves and socks, no music, no football and yet they walk into a mosque with boots and guns and are castigated by the immam, but they don't listen. There is some defiance though - a jihadist comes up to a spirited woman selling fish and they try and insist she wears gloves, but she tells them she must use her bare hands to handle fish and challenges them to cut off her hands instead. They don't. Football is banned, but later we see youths seemingly playing football in a field,running about and scoring goals and cheering to themselves - a motorcycle with a pair of gun-toting jihadist come towards them - but they can't do anything as there is no actual ball, they all are playing with an imaginary ball. There is arbitary punishment - in once scene a group of friends are quietly singing in their house and the jihadist crash in and arrest them, this results in 80 lashes in a public square. In another scene, the jihadist leader has 'given' a bride to one of his soldiers, without the parent's consent. They object and the immam implores with the leader that it is not legal. To no effect. The film does not have a definite ending as such, implying that we are just dropping in to something that is still going on.
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.
Discuss Timbuktu on our Movie forum!