Friday, September 19, 2014

Tombouctou: le chagrin des oiseaux / Timbuktu

MR/FR 2014. P: Sylvie Pialat. D: Abderrahmane Sissako. SC: Abderrahmane Sissako, Kessen Tall. DP: Sofiane El Fani. PD: Sébastien Birchler. M: Amine Bouhafa. S: Philippe Welsh. ED: Nadia Ben Rachid. C: Ahmed Ibrahim dit Pino, Toulou Kiki, Abel Jafri, Fatoumata Diawara. In Arabic, French, tamasheq. 100 min.
    DCP with English subtitles from Le Pacte
    Screener dvd viewed at home.
    © 2014 Les Films du Worso / Dune Vision / Arches Films / ARTE France Cinéma / Orange Studio. Visa d'exploitation 138.089. Dépot Légal 2013.
    First Helsinki International Film Festival (HIFF) screening at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 19 Sep 2014

HIFF Catalogue: Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian: "Abderrahmane Sissako’s passionate and visually beautiful film Timbuktu is a cry from the heart – with all the more moral authority for being expressed with such grace and such care. It is a portrait of the country of his childhood, Mali, and in particular the city of Timbuktu, whose rich and humane traditions are being trampled, as Sissako sees it, by fanatical jihadists, often from outside the country. The story revolves around the death of a cow, affectionately named “GPS” – an appropriate symbol for a country that has lost its way."

"These Islamist zealots are banning innocent pleasures such as music and football, and throwing themselves with cold relish into lashings and stonings for adultery. The new puritans appal the local imam, who has long upheld the existing traditions of a benevolent and tolerant Islam (…)."

"Sissako creates an interrelated series of characters and tableaux giving us scenes from the life of a traumatised nation, historically torn apart and prone to failures in communication between its three languages: Touareg, Arabic and French. At the centre of this is the tragic story of one family: a herdsman Kidane, his wife Satima and their 12-year-old daughter. Kidane angrily confronts a fisherman who has killed his cow, with tragic results."
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian (HIFF Catalogue)

Like Férid Boughedir in Halk-el-wad / A Summer in La Goulette, Abderrahmane Sissako creates a vision of generous and life-affirming tradition of Muslim life.

But unlike in that movie, the focus here is primarily on the intolerant, fanatical, and violent fundamentalism. First a young deer is slaughtered, then ancient images of indigenous worship are destroyed. I have a special interest in the prohibition of the image. Religious image ban and iconoclasm belongs to the themes of Timbuktu. First, images are crushed. Then, people.

Women's hair has to be covered, football is forbidden... there is no end to the bans. The oppression of women by the reactionary rebels is a major issue in this story. Transgressions are punished with whiplashes in the mildest cases, by executions by stoning in graver instances.

Sissako displays a fine judgement in his approach, balancing views of a harmonious approach to life with vicious eruptions of fundamentalist violence.

An epic, tragic, haunting movie. Sissako has an assured artistic sense in his mise-en-scène and in the cinematography by Sofiane El Fani in scope - both in impressive long shots and in tender close-ups. They know how to use silhouettes and reflections effectively in long shots. The score by Amine Bouhafa is beautiful.


A SHORT STATEMENT BY ABDERRAHMANE SISSAKO: "On July 29th, 2012 in Aguelhok, a small city in northern Mali – more than half of which was being occupied by men who were mostly outsiders – an unspeakable crime took place to which the media largely turned a blind eye. A thirty-something couple, blessed with two children, were stoned to death. Their crime: they weren’t married. The video of their killing, which was posted online by the perpetrators, is horrid. The woman dies struck by the first stone, while the man lets out a hollow rasp of a cry. Then silence. Soon after they were dug up only to be buried further away. Aguelhok is not Damascus, nor Tehran. So nothing is said about all this. What I write is unbearable, I know this. I am in no way trying to use shock value to promote a film. I can’t say I didn’t know and, now that I do, I must testify in the hopes that no child will ever again have to learn their parents died because they loved each other."

UNIFRANCE SYNOPSIS: "Not far from Timbuktu, now ruled by religious fundamentalists, Kidane lives peacefully in the dunes with his wife Satima, his daughter Toya, and Issan, their twelve-year-old shepherd. In town, the inhabitants suffer, powerless, from the regime of terror imposed by the Jihadists determined to control their faith. Music, laughter, cigarettes, even soccer have been banned. Women have become shadows but resist with dignity. Every day, the new improvised courts issue tragic and absurd sentences. Kidane and his family seem to be spared the chaos that prevails in Timbuktu. But their destiny changes when Kidane accidentally kills Amadou, the fisherman who slaughtered "GPS," his beloved cow. He now has to face the new laws of the foreign occupants."

Executive Producer : Sylvie Pialat
Assistant Director : Demba Dieye
Screenwriters : Abderrahmane Sissako, Kessen Tall
Director of Photography : Sofian El Fani
Sound Recordists : Philippe Welsh, Roman Dymny, Thierry Delor
Production Managers : Philippe Gautier, Laziz Belkaï
Press Attaché (film) : Marie-Christine Damiens
Editor : Nadia Ben Rachid
Continuity supervisor : Olivia Bruynoghe
Production Designer : Sébastien Birchler
Music Composer : Amine Bouhafa
Costume Designer : Ami Sow
Location Manager : Sékou Traoré

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