TIMBUKTU drew universal praise from critics upon release in 2014 and the French-Mauritanian drama was nominated as Best Foreign Film at the Oscars. Directed & co-written by Abderrahmane Sissako, it’s a small story about a few people in a place about as far off the track as you can get without a camel. It speaks to a universal audience not only by way of a gallery of recognizably flawed characters but also in that it faces up to the scourge of religious persecution and the cruel and absurd application of archaic fundamentalism. In this case a Jihadist offshoot, Ansar Dine, clumsily seeks to control darn near everything about the lives of some pastoral herders in Mali.
The populace responds with scorn, logic, defiance and subterfuge. Sissako likes to take his time with shots, holding them long seconds past their due date (to my taste) and while many see this artsy approach as unhurried and deep it keeps the movie in slow-gear throughout 96 minutes, and the resolution left me with hands up, saying “uh, okay…and?” My carp on pace aside, the acting is good and the cinematography is excellent, courtesy of Sofian El Fani. Reviewers were rhapsodic. It made around $10,000,000. With Ibrahim Ahmed dit Pito, Toulou Kiki, Layla Walet Mohammed and Fatoumata Diawara.
Not to be confused with the 1958 adventure of the same title, with Victor Mature and Yvonne De Carlo: undoubtedly a fun romp.