Donnerstag, 13. November 2014


Mauritanian writer/director Abderrahmane Sissako's "Timbuktu" is a graceful, visually enchanting film about the plight in certain parts of Africa taken over by militant Islamists. Probably too mild in language and style for its message of protest, it paints nevertheless a quietly affecting, wonderfully transportive portrait of a land in struggle.

The script is anecdotal in nature, pieced together by snippets of the Jihadists' invasion of the local life and culture. Various customary practices are forbidden, dress codes are forced on women and ideological brainwash on young men. Individually these incidents are often hair-raising to watch, but due to a lack of momentous push from a more closely-woven context, aggregately they don't pack as huge a punch. The characters are likewise drawn with an authentic, naturalistic hand but not enough substance to really make you relate. The emotional profession of love for his family by an imprisoned man near the end and his subsequent execution which takes a tragic extra toll underline this insufficiency in character-building, as a more deeply-felt connection to the misfortune portrayed is denied.

The direction is patient, lyrical, unaffected, placing the viewer squarely in the grandeur of an ancient, vibrant continent. Hauntingly beautiful images like those of a single lit tent in the dark expanse of the desert under the palest moon or an accidental offender cutting the surface of a placid, golden pond open as he leaves the crime scene behind, compel with their scale and majestic air. Meanwhile, a game of fantasy football is not only visually arresting but immediately brings home the ludicrousness of cultural suppression. The use of music in this film is consistently inspired. The tender, evocative score carrying just a note of ethnic flavor and lots of earthly melancholy, is a winning companion to the delicate photography. A scene of friends secretly singing and jamming at home showcases the human voice at its purest, effortlessly communicating the simple joy of harmonious sound.

As a political statement, "Timbuktu" errs on the modest side, but as a humanistic reminder of endangered traditions and liberties in an under-scrutinized corner of the world, it's composed with great poetry and deserves admiration.

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