Wednesday, October 1, 2014

NYFF52 Day 6: Up Close and Very Personal With the Jihadist in 'Timbuktu'

A family is at risk when Jihadists come to town in "Timbuktu." Photo courtesy of the New York Film Festival

HEADS UP: Picking up where we left off last year, but expanding a tad (OK, quite a bit but still pithy), we will limit comments about New York Film Festival films to 200 or less. And ... Lights. Camera. ACTION! ...

SO often Western journalists are the ones who put a face on Jihad and Jihadists.

Generally, their stories are just-the-facts accounts that actually may be missing quite a few facts. In any case, they are mere surface treatments, carelessly providing oversimplified, narrow views of these individuals, asserted Abderrahmane Sissako.

“Timbuktu” is an artist's rendering of these usurpers, he said. AS's extremely lucid, reductive film puts human faces on Jihadists, the misguided souls who impose their will. In this case, on the citizens of the north Malian city of the title who are seen resisting at every turn.

The film was inspired by the stoning of two children. However, “the idea for the film had been brewing inside long before that,” AS said through an interpreter after a press and industry screening of the film.

“Timbuktu,” Mauritania's Oscar entry for best foreign film, has its U.S. premiere this evening at The 52nd New York Film Festival. (See video below).

In illustrating his point about how resistance is interpreted (or ignored) by the Western media, AS cited the act of boys in the film playing soccer without a ball. Similarly, a woman furiously refusing to wear gloves because it is asinine, as she sells fish for a living.

AS uses incidents such as these untold stories to fill in blanks. “This is how the artist distinguishes himself from the journalist.”

Indeed, the filmmaker provides depth and insight that so often is missing from journalistic accounts.
These Jihadists, for instance, are not just misguided because they don't embrace the individualistic, hedonistic living of the West. Their oppression (and gross misrepresentation of Islam) is so often senseless, absurd and self-serving, as oppression tends to be. It is both comic and tragic.

Further, “Timbuktu” powerfully illustrates that a Jihadist can be an everyman. “What was important to me was to show that a Jihadist is like us,” capable of both good and evil, AS said.

Visit to learn more about The 52nd New York Film Festival, including tickets and showtimes.

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