In France, the 20th annual Lumières awards – essentially the French equivalent of the Golden Globes, as foreign press based in France select the best in French cinema – were handed out earlier this week; and, of note, amongst the names and titles on the list of honorees, Abderrahmane Sissako’s “Timbuktu” was a big winner, taking trophies in the Best Film of the Year and Best Director categories.
It’s been a really good year for the film, which also picked up an Oscar nomination in the Best Foreign Language Film competition, representing Mauritania – a history-making feat for the director, the film, and the country! And it is now likely a strong contender for the French equivalent of the Oscars, the César Awards, which will be handed out on February 20th.
For those in the USA, you should know that Cohen Media Group released the film theatrically, starting last week, on January 28. Check your local listings to find out if it’s playing at a theater near you currently. Although its release is a limited one, so it won’t be available to most of you – that is until its home video release on all the various platforms.
“Timbuktu” was inspired by the real-life story of the 2012 stoning of a young unmarried couple, by Islamists, in a Northern Mali town called Aguelhok. Their crime? They weren’t officially married, and thus, in the eyes of their executioners, were committing a crime against divine law. That summer, the couple was brought to the center of the town, placed in holes in the ground, and stoned to death in front of hundreds of watchers – a horribly tragic incident that drew international media attention, and motivated at least one filmmaker to address on film.
Also of note, the Lumières Special Academy Prize went to “Girlhood” by director Céline Sciamma.
It’s worth noting that Omar Sy, before he got Hollywood’s attention, won the Best Actor Lumières award for his performance in “Intouchables,” 3 years ago, beating out Jean Dujardin of “The Artist.” It proved to be an ominous win for Sy as he then went on to collect the most significant trophy of all – the César Award for Best Actor, making history, becoming the first black actor to win the award. Essentially, it was a moment akin to Sidney Poitier winning the Best Actor Oscar for “Lilies of the Field” (1963). It only took another 50 years for the French to catch up! Not that Hollywood has had a lot to pat itself on the back for since then.
But congrats to Sissako on his double win, as well as to the cast and crew of “Girlhood.”