Sometimes the simplest films are the most powerful. Whilst Timbuktu’s nomination for an Academy Award may have much to do with its subject matter, there’s no denying that it’s beautifully made, subtly disquieting and thought provoking. Abderrahmane Sissako’s film is in no way basic, assuredly side-stepping any notion of melodrama are an overly-complex plot. Opting instead to paint a snapshot of life of people living under the yoke of Islamic extremism.
The legendary Malian city of Timbuktu is under occupation by Ansar Dine. Whilst Sharia Law is enforced within the walls, Kidane (Ibrahim Ahmed) lives outside with his wife and young daughter. When one of his heard of cows is killed by a fisherman, he goes to take revenge; ending up accidentally killing him. As he cannot pay the blood debt, Kidane quietly accepts his fate, whilst gently questioning the motives of his captors.
Kidane’s is nominally the central story running through Timbuktu. However, Sissako focuses on the reactions of the inhabitants to the ridiculous rules imposed on them. He does so with humour, and scenes such as the invisible football game only go to highlight the ludicrous notions of those who wilfully misuse religion to their own ends. Whilst it is light in places, the simple tragedy suffered by many in everyday life is extremely powerful and disquieting. Timbuktu is an understated yet profound film.
Timbuktu is out in cinemas on Friday.