Movie review: ‘Timbuktu’ is a lesson in terror

After religious fundamentalists take over a village in West Africa, a peaceful family’s life is turned upside-down. “Timbuktu” makes this modern tale deeply personal, denouncing the danger of extremists in a haunting and visually stunning film.

This powerful and heart-breaking work was among the nominees for Best Foreign Film at this year’s Oscars. It is indeed a rare gem that shines a light on complex issues in a graceful and striking way.

Jihadists have exerted their control over a region, including the dunes of Timbuktu.

The terrorist regime may take place in lands far removed from our radar, but the importance of what this drama depicts hits very close to home.

It transcends language barriers, for director Abderrahmane Sissako presents a story we can relate to, as daily news footage points out the sad state of world affairs. Using religion as ideology, horrible acts of terrorism are done everyday. Unfortunately, this is not new, but ‘Timbuktu” draws us in to listen.

A cattle herder Kidane (Ibrahim Ahmed), his wife Satima (Layla Walet), daughter Toya and 12-year-old shepherd Issan are forced to obey such crazy laws as no music and no laughter.

The kangaroo court is creating laws and imposing their will on these villagers, in the name of faith. The good and decent seem powerless against the thugs carrying big guns and driving around in huge trucks.

But Jihadists can’t break everyone’s spirit, no matter how hard they try. The visual images in this movie say much, and the natural landscape near the Sahara Desert is breathtaking.

Kidane’s family is thrust into the conflict when an unfortunate incident occurs, and life dramatically changes.

Beautifully shot and thoughtfully told, this film carries a universal message that we must pay attention to for better understanding. History has taught us that, over and over.