Timbuktu is overtaken by jihadists, who are heavily armed and emboldened with indignant righteousness. They insist women cover up visible flesh, and clamp down by banning music, smoking, football and laughter, while improvised courts mete out extreme sentences. In the dunes on the edge of town, a shepherd lives undisturbed with his wife and daughter, though his tranquillity is soon shaken. A brilliant and significant work from master Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissako (Bamako, Waiting for Happiness), this depiction of a region in the grip of religious fundamentalism manages to be both chilling and alluring, making pertinent political points about current events in an elegant, engrossing style. Despite some of the grave concerns of the film, there is also humour and light here, and Timbuktu confirms Sissako’s reputation as the pre-eminent humanist filmmaker working anywhere in the world today.
Timbuktu is released at the IFI and selected cinemas from Friday 29 May 2015
(Programme notes provided by IFI)