“Timbuktu” Exposes Oppressive Regime

Carolyn Doyle, Maroon-News Staff

The film “Timbuktu” was shown on Friday, October 23 as part of the Friday Night Film Series hosted in Little Hall’s Golden Auditorium. Directed by Abderrahmane Sissako, it was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2015 Academy Awards and has received many awards as well as critical praise since its release in 2014. A sobering film about the power of resistance, it reveals the effect that an extremist religion group, the Jihadists, have on a community near the city of Timbuktu in Mali. The people struggle to continue their traditions and lifestyles under the oppressive regime that controls every aspect of their lives. Banning music, soccer, certain behaviors and styles of dress, the people are sentenced to various forms of brutal punishment, including being whipped or stoned for not conforming to these laws. 

This oppression is centered around the struggles of one family living on the outskirts of town. The father, a cattle herder named Kidane, confronts a man who killed one of his cattle. During the altercation, Kidane accidentally kills the man and must face the consequences, while his beloved wife and daughter are powerless to help him. The film shows the strength and dignity of the people, but also the difficulty to maintain one’s identity and faith under an immoral tyranny. It simultaneously denounces the corrupt rule of the religious fundamentalists and praises the strength of the people. The film is complemented by shots of striking scenery of the desert and

community, as well as a beautiful score. 

The director is a well-known international filmmaker who has produced films addressing the issues of globalization in areas that have remnants of colonialism still in place. Working to expose encounters between African people and Europeans, Sissako reveals how many struggle with their personal identity in a global world. Some of his other prominent films include “Waiting for Happiness,” which depicts a young man’s struggle to belong in a small town in Mauritania, and “Life on Earth,” a short film inspired by the poetry of Aime Cesaire that reflects on the relationship

between Europeans and Africans. 

Many of the audience members were effected by the film’s powerful message and depiction of the very real day to day struggles of the characters as they try to preserve their faith and sense of identity. 

 “What was impactful about the film was how the director was able to instill a strong sense of empathy,” junior Allison Zengilowski said. 

Part of the reason why the film has received so much attention is because it illustrates issues that are very applicable to the current world, especially in the Middle East. Some thought it was interesting how the film incorporated modern elements into colonialism, an issue that has been occurring for hundreds of years.  

“I thought it was an interesting take on colonialism. It contrasted the Islamic world with a strong presence of modernism,” junior Dylan Frisbie said.