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There are moments in this film of real beauty and also moments where it genuinely moves you. The disparate strands never really tie together though and the unifying theme of 'aren't Jihadists mean!' isn't deep enough or nuanced enough to hang the whole film on.
Although it is difficult to dislike a film with such gorgeous visuals and powerful messages, I also think that, because of this elements, should have been way better. It is like it fell short of its potential. Nevertheless "Timbuktu" its a view I would recommend, because it shows realities so far from us that makes them so easy to forget.
I really wanted to like this movie, but unfortunately, it wasn't for me.
To me the visual of the film is extremely insipid, savorless, amazingly dull and plainly disappointing! And in that area, someone will have to explain to me how cinematographer Sofian El Fani, who once again reveals himself as an amateur, actually did get a credit for this movie. Very rarely do we see technical challenges. The movie's visualization is so technically repetitive and mind-numbing that it makes the whole movie extremely boring (how many viewers did say they were checking their watch!). Timbuktu's stunning sandy deserts, lakes and caved houses, which should have been splendidly rendered, are regrettably reduced to being consistently filmed with the same elementary shots over and over. It could have been merely OK for a documentary (which the movie was supposed to be BTW). What makes the filming approach so tedious is that Sofian El Fani fails to convey emotions through camera angles (kind of reminded me of La vie d'Adèle where El Fani makes such an excessive use of close-ups that it becomes unbearably repetitive to the viewer).
So unless there was a political move to credit Tunisian film crew members, such as El Fani, (Original Score award to Amine Bouhafa was well deserved though), there is no technical basis whatsoever for him receiving this award for best cinematography. Globally, this film probably moved Western World viewers -- that's why it actually got credited--, but it no manner does it contribute to cinema or art.
As visually arresting as shatteringly startling, this Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film mustering imageries of religious oppression is a cri de coeur for the barbarous Islamic military rule at the titular city.
Un excellent film avec une grande immersion sur la vie sous la charma sans prise de position
Beautifully shot with some particularly powerful scenes, 'Timbuktu' is a poignant story of villagers day-to-day lives made increasingly difficult by the tyrannical Jihadists who have occupied their territory, how life and death is decided by them in a nonchalant manner, and the stifling hypocrisy of it all. The deliberately slow pace may have some viewers constantly checking their watches, and the film does seem to get lost in the magnitude of what it's trying to say, but it is, ultimately, an affecting experience that will leave some sort of impression on its audience.
Timbuktu tries to show the brutality of arbitrary application of sharia law through beautifully photographed scenes of characters and neighborhoods subjected to newfound and nonsensical strictures, like prohibition of music and soccer. But the value of that indictment of sharia is outweighed by the film's ambling, nearly random plot development. And the protagonist who falls victim to the jihadists himself insensibly tries to solve his property dispute with a gun, muddying the film's message. Despite its overwhelmingly positive reception among reviewers, the film leaves the viewer more with pointlessness than persuasion.
Very strong with a powerful message.
Fascinating; heart wrenching
There's a lot of restraint and subtlety in director Abderrahmane Sissako's tragic delineation of what it's like to live under an ISIS takeover of a Muslim community. And there's a beautiful artistry in the way he shows the barbarism of Sharia law so horrifically played out while the subjugation of women is made clear. (Actually the women in the movie stand strong against the subjugation.) Thus the evil of the "jihadists" (ISIS is never named but a black flag is flown) is contrasted with the normal lives of Muslim people.
Sissako, who also wrote the script, is careful to make this distinction-a distinction that a good part of the world is currently working on. It is not Muslims who are bad; it is the extremists. Yet I could not help but think as I watched this with the incessant talk of God will's, etc., that maybe, just maybe, the tribalism of religion itself is at fault. How horrible it is to live with the constant thought and expression that it is all God's doing (with a little help from the forces of evil), and that we are just pawns in some absurd game played by a nearly omnipotent power that can send you to heaven or hell based on the very behaviors built into your psyche.
Well, such would apply to most other religions as well I suppose. So an indictment of Islam is not appropriate. Nonetheless the intense religious climate of the movie was for me almost tyrannical. I felt so sad for all the poor ignorant people and again was reminded of the saying "willful ignorance is the only sin" and again told myself that the only way out of the morass of the Middle East is education leading to enlightenment.
The film is in Arabic, French and a bit of English with English subtitles. A lot of what is said is not translated into the subtitles, but little is lost in the comprehension. There are scenes of great beauty contrasted with ugly violence. Beautiful music is played and sung, and there is a soccer game played without a ball. Such is the absurdity of life under the jihadists, who are really just thugs using a distorted vision of Islam in order to justify their crimes.
--Dennis Littrell, author of "Understanding Religion and Ourselves"