Timbuktu (2014)

Director: Abderrahmane Sissako
Writer: Abderrahmane Sissako, Kessen Tall
Cast: Ibrahim Ahmed, Abel Jafri, Toulou Kiki, Layla Walet Mohamed, Mehdi A.G. Mohamed, Hichem Yacoubi, Kettly Noël
Seen on: 21.01.2015

Libyan Jihadists are gaining traction in Timbuktu, imposing strict religious rules on the Malinese people with differing success and acceptance. Smoking, music or soccer are all banned. Cattle herder Kidane (Ibrahim Ahmed) and his family (Toulou Kiki, Layla Walet Mohamet, Mehdi A.G. Mohamed) are also confronted with the Jihadist demands, but since they live very remotely, they are able to ignore most of it. But then one of Kidane’s cows is killed by a neighbor. When Kidane confronts him, it ends deadly and Kidane finds himself facing sharia court.

Timbuktu is a fascinating look into a world I know practically nothing about and it’s a glimpse that feels very realistic.


Timbuktuis a film with sprawling, beautiful cinematography and its approach to storytelling in general mirrors that: you find yourself not with one straightforward story, not one detail examined closely but an overview of things, even if they’re not directly related to the central story. You suddenly find yourself watching a soccer match without a ball, or you see the arrest of a group of young musicians. You hear a fish monger complaining that she can’t possibly do her job if she has to wear gloves – but it is required that women wear them.

Out of all these facets, a picture emerges that shows a complex world where the occupying forces need translators – sometimes actually more than one – to communicate with the people they’re trying to convert to their lifestyle. Where local imams don’t understand the religious convictions of the occupiers. And where an apparently mad woman with a chicken can still do pretty much everything she wants.

timbuktu1The film does have some weaknesses. There are a few lengths, and I thought that the way Kidane’s family lived – pretty much lounging in their tent the enitre day being happy while the son is out herding the cows – seemed a little too idealized. (I also got the feeling that the son might not actually be the son which confused me a bit.)

But the good parts definitely outweigh the bad parts. Timbuktu proves to be a thoughtful film about a difficult subject that gives you much to think about.

timbuktu2Summarizing: Well worth watching.

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