Islamic Extremists Rule “Timbuktu”
By Skip Sheffield
If you are not sufficiently outraged about ISIS, “Timbuktu” is a film that can push you over the edge.
“Timbuktu” is Mauritania’s official submission to the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film. Director Abderrahmane Sissako shows us what life is like under strict Islamic Shira law. It is not a pretty picture.
The story begins with a group of heavily-swathed armed men in a speeding truck flying the black ISIS flag. The men are shooting at a fleeing gazelle with automatic weapons. They use sacred West African art objects for target practice. We then see them enter the ancient city of Timbuktu, shouting commands from a bullhorn.
“No Smoking!” “Music is forbidden!” “Women must wear socks and gloves!”
Fun and joy is pretty much forbidden. People who suffer the most are the women.
“Cover your head, you are indecent,” a pretty girl is told. We see the oppression from the point of view of a traditional nomadic family, who tend cattle out in the desert. Kidane (Ibrahim Ahmed) the father lives with his wife Satima (Toulou Kiki), daughter Toya (Layla Walet Mohamed) and son Issan (Mehdi Ag Mohamed) in a tent. Issan, 12, is a shepherd-in-training. While herding his cows to water, one breaks away and becomes entangled in fishing net. Zabou (Kelly Noel) the fisherman becomes enraged and throws a wooden spear at the cow, killing it. Issan is devastated by the death of his beloved favorite cow, which he named GPS. When he tells his father about the incident, Kidane becomes enraged and confronts Zabou. A fight takes a tragic turn, setting in motion a series of events that will end in a merciless Shira court.
Why would people want to live such a strict, joyless life, where even playing soccer is forbidden? Well the nomads don’t. All their friends have fled, leaving Kidane’s family as the last holdouts.
The recent ISIS attacks in France have raised interest and controversy over “Timbuktu.” Some fear it will enflame ISIS even further. I can’t recommend this movie as entertainment, but it is a grim education about life under intolerant, ridged religious rule.
“Two Days, One Night”
Speaking of Academy Awards, Marion Cotillard gives another Oscar-worthy performance in “Two Days, One Night.’ The title indicates the amount of time Sandra (Cotillard), a young Belgian mother, has to convince her co-workers to save her job. Sandra has only just returned to work after a bout with severe depression. When management decides they can get by with fewer workers, Sandra has become the most expendable. The catch for her co-workers is they will have to forego their 1,000-Euro bonuses to save her job.
As she so well proved in her Academy Award-winning role of Edith Piaf in “La Vie En Rose,” Cotillard excels at playing women in peril with unrealized reserves of strength. Vulnerable yet determined Sandra is just such a woman.