Timbuktu depicts life in the desert near the city of Timbuktu in Mali. When Islamic fundamentalists take control of the city and unleash their self-appointed religious police, it marks the end of peaceful local life. Music, laughter, cigarettes, even a game of soccer are banned in Timbuktu. The women become shadows but resist with dignity. Every day, the new improvised courts issue tragic and absurd sentences.
Just outside Timbuktu, Kidane, his wife Satima, their daughter Toya and the young cattle herder Issan live a peaceful life. Everything changes when one of Issan’s cows tramples Amadou’s fishing nets and Amadou kills the cow. Kidane goes to Amadou to seek recourse, with disastrous consequences. Now he too is subject to the new regime.
Sissako has filmed this highly topical story using beautiful shots and a quiet style. He has a great eye for detail. This really helps convey the message. ‘The problem is not Islam but the people who misuse Islam,’ Sissako has said. Timbuktu was recently Mauritania’s Oscar entry for Best Foreign Film and has won 17 awards at film festivals worldwide.