By Christopher McCahon
VANCOUVER — The world of Timbuktu is not one that we see every day. From cows and tent houses to assault rifles and Sharia law—the government’s regulation of private life—with nothing but sand in between, this film paints a bleak picture of the true events when religious fundamentalists took over a conservatively Muslim West African town in 2013.
Timbuktu shows us local villagers’ attempt to go about their daily lives as the jihadists tell them what they can and can’t do. A fish merchant must wear gloves and cover her face because she is a woman. A group of teenagers can’t get together and play music or soccer. With these laws enforced by lashes and stonings, it takes all they have just to get by. Yet despite all this there are some who are still defiant. One such villager is Kidane (Ibrahim Ahmed), who lives the life of a cowherder on the outskirts of town with his wife and daughter while trying and failing to escape the harassment by the new authority that has already forced out all of their old friends along the way. Through oppression and intimidation and with little regard for the community’s traditions, the jihadists manage to grip tightly onto what power they have, but the constant threat of persecution and violence put on the people has everyone on edge.
All the actors are incredibly cast with a wide representation of several unique languages and cultures all sown together under the direction of Abderrahmane Sissako, who brought the film to the Cannes film festival and to an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. With the characters being played by such authentic individuals, you can’t help but see yourself right there along with them questioning the very same things that they have to deal with, and you’ll find yourself wondering: when your life and your family’s well-being are on the line, how do you stand up to a force that is unchanging and unforgiving?
Now playing at Vancity Theatre.BC, British Columbia, Timbuktu, Vancity Theatre