Abderrahmane Sissako’s Oscar-nominated “Timbuktu,” shot in Mauritania but set in northern Mali near the title city, is a lovely, cogent, melancholy, quietly damning portrait of radical religious fundamentalists arrogantly, clumsily taking over a small town. Inspired by a 2012 murder by jihadists of a couple in their thirties by stoning, Sissako keenly observes cruelty, folly and tenderness during the year-long occupation and its wave of irrational destruction. “The film, through the couple Kidane and Satima, insists on one essential point,” he writes, “that violence will never be able to kill love. You can kill a man, but you cannot kill the love he has for his daughter, his wife. This is fundamental, and is the key to victory over barbarity. It is how we defy extremism. They will not have the last word. Beauty and dignity will triumph.” “Timbuktu” is filled with eddies and echoes, few as plainly spoken as those words, which may partially explain the film’s runaway success in France after the Charlie Hebdo terrorist murders in Paris. That it’s a very, very good, understated drama could account for the rest. 97m. Widescreen. (Ray Pride)
“Timbuktu” is now playing at Landmark Century.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.