Oscar-Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film

A festival favourite at Cannes, Timbuktu has won glowing reviews and accolades ever since, including an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.

“African director Abderrahmane Sissako takes on tragedy of the absurd in Timbuktu, a masterful and heartbreaking account of religion trumping humanity. Elegantly composed as drama, but wreathed in real-life events, the Oscar-nominated film presents the title city, located in the West African country of Mali. Armed fundamentalist jihadists have taken over and laid down absurdly strict rules based on their extreme interpretation of sharia law.

“Soccer, music, tea, tobacco and even bright colours are banned. Women are relegated to the shadows. The jihadists seem to be making up the rules as they go, which they bluster out through bullhorns as they roam through the streets. The locals chafe at the restrictions but they mostly acquiesce. The jihadists have guns and SUVs at their disposal.

“Living happily apart from the insanity, for now, is  Kidane who occupies a tent on the sand dunes with his wife antheir beloved 12-year-old daughter. Kidane drinks tea, plays his guitar and tends his cattle. No worries, until the day when his beloved cow wanders away and tangles the nets of a fisherman, who angrily responds by killing the beast.

“Kidane sets out to right a perceived wrong, but who knows what the right thing to do is anymore when laws change by the minute? The only thing certain is that Kidane’s quiet life is about to be shattered.

“Timbuktu matter-of-factly presents tragic scenes of the collision between religion and compassion. We are spared the worst of the tortures. Sissako isn’t out to bludgeon people with the brutal truth. He doesn’t need to, with images this powerful.

“But Timbuktu also finds moments of unexpected grace. The jihadists can imprison, wound or kill the physical body, but they can’t destroy the human spirit.” - Toronto Star


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