The film “Timbuktu” is loosely based on events that happened during the Ansar Dine, a militant group who have referred to themselves as “defenders of the faith” a few years ago (King Henry VII was once given the title “Defender of the Faith” yet he took at least two married women as mistresses). The film consistently highlights that the members of the group do not practice what they preach. There is a scene where one of the new members is making a video about a commitment to purism. One of the things other members have him talk about is a commitment to purge Western Culture from his life. It is ironic that they use western technology to record it.
The members of Ansar Dine also use cell phones throughout the film to communicate and drive around in large, fully loaded Toyota (yes, it’s a Japanese company, but highly popular in Western Culture) truck. They also take their assault rifles into a house of worship. One of the first scenes shows a man with a bull horn issuing a new set of laws. Women must wear gloves and socks, in addition to keeping their heads covered. A woman is arrested for refusing to wear the gloves because they get in the way of doing her job of selling fish. There is another scene where people are arrested for singing and playing music. One of the occupants who assists the group in enforcing the rigid laws on civilians, secretly smokes (something the group forbids) and makes unwanted visits to a married woman while her husband is away. One man who plays football (soccer) is sentenced to 100 lashes because it is forbidden, yet several occupiers have heated debates about who the best professional player is.
There is also a scene where a young girl who has done nothing more than unintentionally catches the eye of one of the occupiers, is kidnapped from her parents in the middle of the night and forced to marry him. The leaders justify it by saying that he is a holy man and so entitled to a wife. There is another scene where an unmarried couple is buried up to their necks in the sand and stoned to death. All of the harsh punishments are issued by men who do not practice what they preach.
The film is beautifully shot. There are a number of closer shots, but also a few wide shots that force audience members to actively watch the action. The performances are terrific. Some characters are more fleshed out than others, but nothing about the film is rushed. It will be playing her in Dayton at the Neon for the rest of the week and is worth checking out.