Tragedy spurs powerful film

By Anne-Marie McDonald

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A scene from Timbuktu, the latest screening at the Whanganui Film Society.
A scene from Timbuktu, the latest screening at the Whanganui Film Society.

The public stoning of an unmarried couple in Mali was the inspiration behind director Abderrahmane Sissako's film Timbuktu.

The film will screen at the Whanganui Film Society on August 8.

In the dunes outside Timbuktu, a cattle farmer called Kidane, played with sad nobility by Ibrahim Ahmed, has built a life with his wife, Satima, their 12-year-old daughter, and a young shepherd boy. Kidane plucks a guitar at night, and their tent feels like a sacred haven under the stars. However, all is not as it seems.

Despite the grim events behind the film, reviewer Tim Robey from The Telegraph said Timbuktu is in no way the "remorselessly grim film its subject matter might lead you to expect".

"It's full of life, irony, poetry and bitter unfairness. It demands respect, but it also earns it.

"Timbuktu is a wrenching tragic fable, Aesop-like in its moral clarity, about all the injustices Sharia Law can wreak. It's also gorgeous.

Few tracts about religious intolerance have ever been this alive to the beauty in their world - the play of late-evening sunlight across a lake, the nimble joy of a football game the authorities want banned."

This screening is open to members only. Half-year memberships are now available for $45. For more information, including membership details, visit

- Wanganui Chronicle

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