Cert 12

timbuktu-dec-8thSissako brings us a chilling scenario as the Islamic police infiltrate and attempt to take control of the Malian city. This delicate drama is centred on a fisherman and his family who become embroiled in the autocratic interpretation of Sharia law imposed by the new order.Sissako uses great subtlety to evoke the intent of those cloaked in the guise of righteousness. “Watching the gradual shift from merely symbolic displays of power to bloodshed, the effect is something like being caught in a nightmare that you recognise as such but can’t wake from or control.” Nick Pinkerton, Sight and Sound. (Cert 12)
Dir: Abderrahmane Sissako 94mins Mauritania/Fr 2014

Programme Notes

In this chilling but beautifully constructed and photographed film, acclaimed Mauritanian auteur and director Abderrahmane Sissako takes us to the Malian city of Timbuktu where life for the townsfolk is facing radical changes under their new fundamentalist Islamic rulers. The story is told from the perspective of a gentle herdsman, Kidame, his wife Satima and daughter, Toya who, following a fatal altercation with a local fisherman, finds himself at the mercy of the Islamists’ interpretation of Sharia law.

The villagers’ resistance to the new order is gradually broken down by the rag-tag leaders, and all the elements of their formerly peaceful and orderly existence are undermined. The absurdity of the fundamentalists’ proscriptions and their own confusion and haphazard way of applying them (“They’re singing praises to God, what should we do?”) would be comic if it weren’t for the murderous zeal that underwrites the madness. However, as their grip on the village tightens, so the resistance becomes more desperate, even as it threatens to vanish.

Sissako was moved to make this film following the stoning to death of an unmarried couple in 2012.

Acknowledgements: John Bleasdale, CineVue

“[ … ] there are few film-makers alive today wearing the mantle of moral authority [ … ] that Sissako has taken upon himself and, if his film has been met with an extra-ordinary amount of acclaim, it is because he wears this mantle lightly and has not confused drubbing an audience with messages with profundity” Nick Pinkerton, Sight&Sound

Kidane: Ibrahim Ahmed
Satima: Toulou Kiki 
Toya: Layla Walet Mohomed 
Abdel Kerim: Abel Jafri 
Zabou: Kettly Noel
Director: Abderrahmane Sissako
Producers: Etienne Comar, Sylvie Pialat
Screenplay: Abderrahmane Sissako, Kessen Tall
Cinematography: Sofian El Fani
Original Music: Amin Bouhafa


What a masterpiece! It showed us the utter terror totally immoral people are thrown into [sic]

Superb filming, acting and music

A brave film

Great exposition of the uncertainties and conflict within an apparently rigid religious system

Moving. I did not recognise God in any of it

A terrifying portrayal of religious fundamentalism

Solid character-driven drama. Whilst the editing seemed choppy in places, its interesting premise still managed to maintain intrigue throughout

Thought provoking – felt like a documentary. Better to be the one making up the rules, rather than trying to abide by them

Some sympathetic characters: helpful demonstration of Sharia law in action, some horrific scenes and some events hard to follow

A strange, alien life where, even in central Africa, the world is now ruled by guns, mobile ‘phones and pick-ups powered by Allah’s petrol!

Unbelievably sad and unbelievably foreign!

Much of it didn’t make sense. Wouldn’t Kidane have pointed out that the fisherman had killed his cow and they had a fight? And why were the jihadists after the motorcyclist? Some nice photography, though

Do I understand this better now? No – it’s still madness


A:14, B:13, C:4, D:2, E:0 to give 80% from 97% of those present.