Our night in Bermondsey was a chance to continue in the founding principals of MNFC – good food, great company, and of course a chin-stroke-worthy film par excellence, the magnificent and powerful Timbuktu. Of course, there was no doubt that tonight would be a cracking MNFC, on account of the return of our Supreme Leader Becca, checking in on us to make sure we were still following the founding dictatorial principles, and choosing Timbuktu to our wondrous delight.
Whilst polishing off SE1’s finest takeaway, we settled down to a film, which proved to be as beautiful as it was thought provoking, as terrifying as amusing, and a film that, in my opinion, was a perfect lens to view the times in which we live.
Timbuktu is, as the name suggests, set in Mali and shows the discord between the community of the town and the Jihadists who occupy it. This tense circumstance is the setting in which we get to meet numerous characters from either side, and explore the political and religious climate of North Africa, through viewing the effects it has on the people we meet within the story.
This is a community where traditional Malian values are usurped by oppressive extremism, where football and music is banned, and where punishments to misdemeanours are severe. Given the real-world exposure we have to the plight of such communities within the images we see on the news and in the papers, Timbuktu could have failed as a work of fiction. But, by immersing us within the community and meeting the individuals living and surviving under the repressive regime, the movie casts a very human face on to the global issues that are so prescient in the world today. With this in mind, I feel Timbuktu should be on the mandatory viewing lists for world leaders before they are sworn into office, and force-fed to the less liberal politicians in a manner akin to Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange.
Moving away from political rhetoric and into the substance of the film, the memory of Timbuktu that I have in writing this Review many weeks later, is the vivid colours and the impressive backdrop in which the story unfolds. The way in which the film is shot is intriguing to. In particular there is a crucial scene where the camera is set back a few hundred metres from the action. Given the violent nature of what is taking place and the emotional resonance this would have to the characters and the community, one would have thought that a close narrow focus camerawork, perhaps hand-held, would have been chosen. Instead, here we are, parked a very long way away, in the middle of a huge river that overwhelms the screen and makes the characters seem tiny. Of course, there is symbolism here of the unending majesty of nature despite human activity, and the river being a metaphor for the divisions that will take over the plot from this moment on. But in terms of the story telling, this is an unusual approach which had me on the edge of my seat, nervously straining to see what had occurred, and what would this mean for the rest of the story. Very tense and gripping stuff indeed.
For a movie of this importance and quality, there are of course many detailed reviews that I would encourage all MNFC followers to have a read around. I certainly found it very interesting to do so. The film was nominated for the Palm d’Or in 2014 and, more importantly, I am sure it will be a strong contender for the FAFTAs next year! Certainly for the Best Foreign Language (Mussolini) Award. And perhaps this is what I liked most about Timbuktu: being a French-Mauritanian film, it is an African film created by Africans, with European backing for distribution. This is the type of collaboration the world needs: a way of giving a voice to the communities and people who need it the most, but yet to whom the world refuses to listen.
Until the next time,