Timbuktu Blu-ray Review

     Actors: Abel Jafri, Fatoumata Diawara, Ibrahim Ahmed, Toulou Kiki
  • Director: Abderrahmane Sissako
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 
  • Studio: Cohen Media Group
  • Release Date: June 23, 2015
  • Run Time: 97 minutes


            Timbuktu shares a great deal in common with the Russian film, Leviathan. Both were nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Foreign Language Film, though Timbuktu has the distinction of being Mauritania’s first submission to the Oscars. They are also both films with political undertones, giving views of social injustice. Both are also visually arresting pictures that capture the film’s setting with clarity and beauty. Neither one of these movies won their category, but both certainly deserved the nomination.


            As the title suggests, much of the film takes place in and around Timbuktu, which has recently been taken over by religious fundamentalists. Though the film’s protagonists live outside the city in the desert dunes, the narrative often returns to Timbuktu for examples of the Jihadist control. Their strict rules include a dress code to be enforced, and a ban on music, laughter, smoking and soccer. In the hands of weaker director, the underlying message of the film may have felt assaulting, but Abderrahmane Sissako manages it with elegance.


            This general narrative slowly intersects with the life of Kidane (Ibrahim Ahmed aka Pino), a simple cattle herder living with his wife, Satima (Toulou Kiki), and daughter, Toya (Layla Walet Mohamed). Though many have fled with the news of arriving fundamentalist, Kidane decides to stay with the hopes that their removal from the city will keep them safe. This plan nearly works, though he does not take into consideration the new law of Timbuktu under fundamentalist control, especially when he has an altercation with a neighbor over his prize cow.


            Rather than shock audiences with horrific violence, Timbuktu is subtle and poetic with the images of savagery. It subtly creeps in with dread, beginning with an ominous opening scene with men ruthlessly hunting down a gazelle in a truck. It is an oddly beautiful film for one about such a dark subject matter, and looks fantastic on high definition Blu-ray.


            The special features of this disc include an interview with director Abderrahmane Sissako. There is also a booklet insert with photography and the cast/crew list, as well as a chapter listing.


    Entertainment Value: 5/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 8.5/10

    Historical Significance:  8/10

    Special Features: 5/10

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