Directed by Abderrahmane Sissako
Ms. Hen found it difficult to situate herself in this film at first. She read the description incorrectly and thought it was about Malaysia and not Mali. After she watched the whole thing, she went to the internet, and found out that Mali is not Malaysia. She felt like a silly hen for not realizing where it took place, but this film is anything but silly.
TIMBUKTU takes place in Mali during the revolution in 2012. The story revolves around a farming family in which the father, Kidane, dotes on his beautiful twelve- year old daughter, Toya. They have a simple life with their herd of cows, but they don’t know that tragedy is about to come their way.
The Muslim extremists are taking over the country, announcing throughout the village that it is a violation for women to be without socks. They stop women on the street to see if they are wearing socks; and if a woman is not, she gets taken into custody. The tyrants tell a woman who is selling fish that she has to wear gloves, but she fights with them, and tells them she cannot sell her fish wearing gloves, and if they want to make her, they should cut off her hands.
The men in the government are after anyone who sings in private, or anyone who plays soccer. One of the most beautiful moments of the film is when the woman who is arrested for singing is receiving forty lashes, and starts to sing and wail from the depths of her soul. Many cinematic flourishes decorate this film. If it is possible for film to be considered poetry, this could be the one to accomplish such a feat.
The mis en scene takes one’s breath away. We see a miserable place in the desert where the society is disintegrating, but the beauty of the landscape and the people almost make us forget the devastation that is happening. Ms. Hen decided that watching TIMBUTKU makes her happy that she lives where she lives and she doesn’t have to worry about the authorities telling her she has to wear socks, and she has the option of dancing if she desires. Where Ms. Hen lives is not perfect, but she believes that it is as safe as it can be.
The family of farmers is not safe from the extremists. A fisherman warned the son Issan about letting the cow near his fishing nets, but Issan had no control over the cow. The fisherman kills the cow, and Issan runs back to tell the family. Kidane, irate, takes matters into his own hands, and goes to the fisherman with the intent to hurt him.
What ensues is chaos. Ms. Hen didn’t know what happened for a few seconds, but that is the beauty of this film. The viewer doesn’t alway know what is happening immediately, but has to read between the images.
Ms. Hen’s favorite part of the film was the woman from Haiti with the magical chicken. The chicken appears with the woman dressed in blue, and the woman talks to the chicken and the chicken appears to be the one who is all-knowing. Ms. Hen always loves when a chicken appears in a film, because she likes to know her kind is being appreciated.
Ms. Hen loved this film, even though it brought her down. The poetry of pain expressed in film always heartens Ms. Hen. If beautiful art comes from something horrible, the struggle might not be in vain. And to let the world know that horrors exist brings light to the struggle we all share. We all are on this planet together and if injustice occurs to someone, it hurts everyone. Ms. Hen gives this film five feathers up.