‘Timbuktu’ by French-Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissako has been given a warm welcome by critics at the Cannes Film Festival.
It is a portrait of the west African state of Mali, and in particular the city of Timbuktu, whose rich and humane traditions are being trampled, according to Sissako, by fanatical jihadis.
Euronews’ correspondent in Cannes asked the director about the film’s title:
“Timbuktu is a very strong symbol of knowledge, culture, education and religion. Was it important for you that the film should be set in that city?,” asked euronews’ Fred Ponsard.
“Yes, I didn’t think that after making ‘Bamako’, I would go to Timbuktu. Naming my movies Bamako or Timbuktu is first and foremost a way, for me, of drawing attention to this part of the world,” said Sissako.
‘Timbuktu’ describes a place of bigotry and fear ruled by Islamist zealots, who break even the most basic codes of Islam, like marching into mosques carrying arms, against the wishes of the local imam.
“Often, it’s cities themselves that are taken hostage, entire cultures that are taken hostage. That’s as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than when it’s one or two people. That’s what’s unbearable for me as an artist, the harm that these men are doing to a religion and traditions through their actions. I have experienced this and suffered from it, and I am trying to bear witness to this, to show what is happening,” says Abderrahmane Sissako.
One of the strengths of the film is that it doesn’t paint a black and white picture but shows the fundamentalists as humans too, with their own emotions and weaknesses.
‘Timbuktu’ is one of 18 films competing for the Palme d’Or in Cannes. The winner will be announced on May 25.