The 67th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, the world’s most prestigious, is now in its final week, heading into a weekend close, when awards winners will be announced, including the coveted Palme d’Or honor for the best film in competition.
One of those films in contention for the Palme d’Or is Mauritanian-born, Mali-raised filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako’s latest feature, Timbuktu.
His 5th solo directorial effort, Sissako’s 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.
“Aguelhok is neither Damascus nor Teheran,” Sissako said in a pre-production statement over a year ago, adding that, “and in no way am I looking to over-emotionalize these events for the purposes of a moving film. What I do want to do is bear witness as a filmmaker. Because I will never be able to say I didn’t know. And because of what I know now, I must tell this story – in the hope that no child may ever have to learn this same lesson in the future. That their parents could die, simply because they love each other.“
The film stars Ibrahim Ahmed, Toulou Kiki, Abel Jafri and Fatoumata Diawara.
After its first public screening at the festival, the film reportedly received a 10-minute-long standing ovation, which might translate to potential award pick-ups this weekend when they’re handed out.
Overall, reviews to the film have been mostly favorable (some overwhelmingly so), which is obviously a good thing, and only makes me even more anxious to see it eventually!
In the meantime, the below 4 clips from the film will have to suffice:
Sissako is certainly no stranger to Cannes. Along with the late Ousmane Sembène, Souleymane Cissé, Idrissa Ouedraogo and Djibril Diop Mambety, he’s one of a few filmmakers from Sub-Saharan Africa to enjoy real and rooted international reach. His 2002 film, Waiting for Happiness (Heremakono), was screened at the Cannes Film Festival that year, as an official selection in the Un Certain Regard program, and went on to win the FIPRESCI Prize. His 2007 film Bamako, also received much international attention, including a César Award nomination (France’s equivalent of the Academy Award) for its star Aïssa Maïga, as well as a Lumiere Award for Best French-Language Film, which it won.
Watch the 4 clips from Timbuktu below (sadly, they aren’t subtitled in English, but, at least they give you a preview of the film’s look. And the images do help tell what’s happening in each scene):