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Wednesday, 21 January 2015 00:00

Timbuktu - nominated for an Oscar
 
Igor Sukmanov: TIMBUKTU IS A TOWN OF SADNESS (MIFF Dayily #5 /113, 2014)
 
...Timbuktu is a town of sadness. Once an intellectual and scientific centre, now it more or less justifies its exotic name, which means "the end of the world". Extremely far and inaccessible, all but erased from the memory of the world, this town is living through a silent tragedy of occupation, supressed liberties and religious ontolerance. Conquered by migrant Tuareg rebels, Timbuktu started implemeting the most radical Islamic canons. Humble human joys are replaced by sorrow, fear, and despondency. Women are bound to wear black, the youth are denied any possibility of carefree communication, sports, music, reading and even love are prohibited.

 

This is the kind of 'surreal reality' that the Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissako creates in his new feature film. Shot in a deliberately simple style, it reflects the European film tradition meeting the spirit of the unique Afro-Arabic culture.

 

The main storyline is about ruined family happiness of a Berber nomad, whose srtife with a neighbour fisherman resulted in big trouble. There are also several subplots - dramatic novellas, sketches, stories about urban life in the grasp of the new fundamental rule.

 

 

At first these scenes only serve to accentuate other scenes, those of peaseful unhirried rural idyll. Later on they close in around them, and the next moment proud and independent heroes have to live out the tragic destinies of the citizens of Timbuktu, and the blind fortune throws them at the feet of the Sharia judges.

 

A complicated network of seemingly separate yet curiously connected subplots arises from the familiar "Tales of a Thousand and One Night". And the fablelike intonation certainly makes Abderrahmane Sissako's movie quite "pure" and not politically charged.

 

 

To make us shudder, it would havebeen sufficient to play out the psychological drama of civilization slidingdown into obscurantist hell. To pourviolence on the screen, to bare the cynicism of an aggressive mind,to stage the tragedy, to reconstruct the doings of militant ignorance with documentary impartiality. But Sissako's movieavoids indignant intonations. Instead, it shows the most dramatic moments with poetic detachment. The author's main weapon is poetry, not rage. A symbol turns into fact, one moment turns into eternity, a private story becames epic. Sissako calls upon us to experience far more complex feelings than bitterness and noble indination at witnessing acts of injustice.

 

 

If we look at "Timbuktu" "out of the ideological context yet staying in reality", we can reach the core and see these wonderful people and their readiness to overcome any harsh trials alone, without indignation or riots, prepared to burn like a phoenix and resurrect.

 

Igor Sukmanov