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Timbuktu

Directed by Abderrahmane Sissako

Mauritania, 2014

HOME, 7 June 2015

Our world is an African village where Islamic fundamentalists, armed of course, have just arrived and are laying down their own version, an extremist version, of Sharia law.

The absurdity is highlighted – jihadists toting AK47s discussing the relative merits of Zidane and Messi – but you’re aware also that these men have it in their power to kill. If the villagers, most of whom are Muslim albeit of a gentle strand, play football or music, they are flogged or stoned.

Throughout, there are several stories involving a coterie of characters, but the central narrative concerns a dispute between a herdsman and a fisherman, leading to a tragic death. This is like a Narayan story.

Elsewhere, the film ranges far and it is women, more often than not, who are the victims. At a flogging, a jihadist holds up a camcorder to capture a woman’s suffering on camera – as we know, it’s only some images of the human form that Islamic fundamentalist disapprove of. A beautiful woman bravely parades through the village in colourful dress, train following behind. A mother is forced to marry off her daughter to a jihadist: here, Sharia-sanctioned rape.

A compassionate film.

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