In the Ottoman province of Hijaz during World War I, a young Bedouin boy experiences a greatly hastened coming-of-age as he embarks on a perilous desert journey to guide a British officer to his secret destination.
In a Russian coastal town, Kolya is forced to fight the corrupt mayor when he is told that his house will be demolished. He recruits a lawyer friend to help, but the man's arrival brings further misfortune for Kolya and his family.
Liège, Belgium. Sandra is a factory worker who discovers that her workmates have opted for a EUR1,000 bonus in exchange for her dismissal. She has only a weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses in order to keep her job.
Not far from the ancient Malian city of Timbuktu, proud cattle herder Kidane (Ibrahim Ahmed aka Pino) lives peacefully in the dunes with his wife Satima (Toulou Kiki), his daughter Toya (Layla Walet Mohamed), and Issan (Mehdi Ag Mohamed), their twelve-year-old shepherd. In town, the people suffer, powerless, from the regime of terror imposed by the Jihadists determined to control their faith. Music, laughter, cigarettes, even soccer have been banned. The women have become shadows but resist with dignity. Every day, the new improvised courts issue tragic and absurd sentences. Kidane and his family are being spared the chaos that prevails in Timbuktu. But their destiny changes abruptly. Written by
A film about the daily reality of Islam fundamentalism is a courageous project - even more so when the maker himself is a Muslim. For this reason alone, 'Timbuktu' cannot be praised enough. It will get plenty of international exposure, because this film is the first ever Oscar entry from Mauritania, and luckily it made the Foreign Language shortlist of nine candidates, out of 83 entries.
'Timbuktu' shows how Libyan jihadists invade Mali and turn the lives of the locals upside down. The Malinese are no longer allowed to play music or to smoke cigarettes, the women are obliged to cover their heads when in public, and sharia courts are issuing cruel and undeserved punishments. In spite of all this, the film is not at all harsh or bleak. On the contrary, most scenes show the Malinese living an idyllic life and trying to make the best of the situation. Some scenes are almost hilarious: the jihadists have to cope with serious language barriers to get their message across, they are unable to drive cars and even break their own rules by secretly smoking cigarettes.
Filmed in neighbouring Mauritania, the movie is full of beautiful landscapes, nice buildings and good-looking people. This is exactly what bothered me a little bit: sometimes you have the impression that you're watching a documentary on National Geographic Channel, showing the beauty of Mali. I can't imagine life in this dirt poor country being even half as peaceful and harmonious as is suggested in this film. A little more third world realism would have been appropriate, including the daily struggle for life of people living in extreme poverty.
Nevertheless, the film is a joy to watch, and contains some extremely beautiful scenes. One example is the scene of a football team playing a game without a ball, because it is confiscated by the jihadists. A perfect and original way to show how Muslim fundamentalism can be defeated, against all odds.
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