Saturday, May 30, 2015


Yes , we went to see the celebrated film by Abderrahman Sissako last night and it was just as good, in fact much better than I had imagined. But because I am almost Malian now, and fiercely pro-Bamako in my political outlook, I had worried about it having a pro-Azawad slant, in which case I may have had to make an ostentatious  exit.  But of course the film is not about the wider Malian conflict but only about Timbuktu under the 10-month rule of the Islamists in 2012.
And it is not predictable in any way.  It is a loosely constructed cavalcade of events under an absurdist regime that forces men to roll up the trousers to just below the knee and women to wear gloves:  The reaction of the fish-selling matron who shouts abuse in Bambara to her tormentors ‘the Islamic Police’ is very funny: ‘how do you expect me to sell fish with gloves on?’ which reminded me of how resilient and  not-to-be-messed –with  Malian women are. 
The film is populated by arresting and unforgettable characters and moments: the mad seductress  trailing her  tattered  robes through the streets of Timbuktu carrying her  pet chicken in regal and utter contempt for the Jihadists (Kettly Noel above) , the football game with the imagined football;  the young Jihadist ex-rapper who was supposed to tell his story on a promotional video but was unable to do so, since it was clear that he could not quite understand why music was banned; the wisdom of the Imam in his dealings with the Jihadists (this is true, I know the son of one of the Timbuktu Imams and he always kept lines of communication open with the Jihadists); the beautiful scenery – mainly filmed in Mauritania I believe-which made me homesick for Mali.
One of the most interesting features of the film was its unpredictability: we were taken down various paths which should by all rights have led to certain conclusions: but they never did. For instance we were certain that we were heading for an unpleasant culmination –possibly a rape scene-  involving  the main Jihadist Abdelkrim  and Satima, the wife  of Kidane the main character, but no, the film never behaved  as one has been used to expect. And however nasty the Jihadists were they were never painted as anything but misguided fellow humans.  A great film.


Blogger mary said...

What a recommendation. Our local film society had not rated it well so had not selected it. But now I feel that we must get to see it.
Pleased that you are having such a great cultural time in London now you have emerged from your cellar. I especially liked the cloth with the grey background and quite geometric darker grey.If rural life beckons do head north and visit us.

9:17 PM  
Blogger David said...

Best review I've seen. And you didn't spoil the main plotline, as others I've seen have done (I suppose the peripetaia was inevitable, but only at a certain point).

It certainly looked like Timbuktu, didn't it. Such amazing compositions in every frame, and not just for the sake of beautiful filming.

10:23 AM  
Blogger toubab said...

Yes, Mary, rural life does beckon! and if I can I will try and come up around the 24th for a couple of days? Glad you like the 'Labyrinth'cloth.
And thank you dear David for that endorsement. Yes, it did look like Timbuktu- sort of- but as we both know, as far as beauty goes, Timbuktu is but a pale shadow of Djenné...and that rea1lly is the truth!

2:15 PM  
Blogger David said...

It really is. A couple of streets and the Sankore Mosque, however, do look much as depicted.

I actually realised afterwards that the Doctor Johnson maxim invoked on Saturday night should be reversed - Timbuktu is worth going to see, but not worth seeing, in that the getting there by land and back by the River Niger were much the most interesting part of the experience. Not that it's going to be done by many now.

Are you now by an icy lake?

6:19 PM  
Blogger Tabor said...

Hopefully somewhere online I will be able to see this film. I live too far away from independent film venues. I would love to see the area on the big screen after reading your blog.

8:41 AM  

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