Sunday, March 15, 2015

Timbuktu (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


The terror group Ansar Dine destroyed a historic shrine in Mali in 2012 and vowed to keep going. Such people work on fear, and any kind of free expression offends them. Such is the case with all fanatical religions regardless of type or deity worshiped. Director Abderrahmane Sissako's "Timbuktu" a rhythmic, disquieting and poetic film, illustrates this circumstance.

At the beginning we are shown the ISIS terror group chase a gazelle, and just as cruelly they destroy a collection of African art. They pulverize the wooden souls of these wonderful sculptures. A breast is sliced clean off, rosewood heads are chopped. In effect, we witness a murder of art.  Heads are left cast aside and violated, dismembered from their bodies. Isis has taken root and everyone is under a cloak of fear, of being arrested, questioned, jailed or shot.

Despite this, life goes on.

The camera homes in on one cattle herder, Kidane (Ibrahim Ahmed). He is at peace and lives simply. One day, his son comes to him in tears. Kidane's prized cow, Gps, was killed for straying by his neighbor, Issan (Medhi AG Mohamed). The tall and relaxed man resolves to take action. After a heated fight with close contact, Kidane's pistol fires with the sequence of events unclear.

He is brought before the military court. Though remorseful, Kidane is stoic, his only regret is not seeing his daughter.

Though events are tense throughout, there are some beautiful moments: an eccentric singer, dressed in the colors of a peacock utters her own unique language that escalates higher and higher. Families huddle in their homes to sing covert songs that have a winding haunt, seemingly without origin, a noir silhouette in music. It is the resiliency of sound that carries on,  in opposition to ISIS's deaf and crushing wall.

The coming and going of life attempts to carry on in free orbit with music and dress, but the noose tightens. A fish purveyor is commanded to wear gloves. A jihadist forces a daughter's hand in marriage, seemingly at random. And, more shocking still, "violators" are buried alive and stoned to near death, left to rot in the harsh sun. Their desiccated heads horribly becoming fossilized wooden figures in parallel to the first scene.

On break, the soldiers talk of soccer, unaware that the athletes that they hold so dear may well violate sharia law.

The film moves across the screen in grand powerful colors and shades creating the visual equal of a story penned by Paul Bowles. As timely as it is upsetting, it has the sweep of an epic. "Timbuktu" possesses a poetic shriek and a lyrical slice of life that, to its credit, doesn't soften in comfort.

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