The 67th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, the world's most prestigious, kicked off today, May 14, and will run for the next 10 days, through May 24. Overall African Diaspora participation at this year's event is as low as it typically is, so no surprises there.
S&A won't have a presence at the festival this yea; it's a costly trip which I can't justify; plus the few films that are of interest to this blog - given its stated mission - often will travel and screen at other film festivals closer to home. But I do hope to gain access to the films of interest before then.
In the meantime, I'll be sharing immediate and abbreviated reactions to those films from those critics who are at the festival, as they come in via social networking sites like Twitter, starting with Mauritanian-born, Mali-raised filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako, whose latest feature, Timbuktu, was selected to screen In Competition at this year's event.
His 5th solo directorial effort, Sissako's Timbuktu was inspired by the real-life story of the 2012 stoning of a young unmarried couple, by Islamists, in a Northern Mali town called Aguelhok. Their crime? They weren't officially married, and thus, in the eyes of their executioners, were committing a crime against divine law. That summer, the couple was brought to the center of the town, placed in holes in the ground, and stoned to death in front of hundreds of watchers - a horribly tragic incident that drew international media attention, and motivated at least one filmmaker to address on film.
"Aguelhok is neither Damascus nor Teheran," Sissako said in a pre-production statement over a year ago, adding that, "and in no way am I looking to over-emotionalize these events for the purposes of a moving film. What I do want to do is bear witness as a filmmaker. Because I will never be able to say I didn't know. And because of what I know now, I must tell this story - in the hope that no child may ever have to learn this same lesson in the future. That their parents could die, simply because they love each other."
The film stars Ibrahim Ahmed, Toulou Kiki, Abel Jafri and Fatoumata Diawara.
It had its first screening today; below you'll find a few Twitterific reactions from those who attended the screening:
1st main comp film at #Cannes almost makes up for Grace Of Monaco disaster: Timbuktu by A. Sissako- utterly absorbing, plenty of heart
— Catherine Nicholson (@ACatInParis) May 14, 2014
Found Sissako's BAMAKO too didactic to take to, but TIMBUKTU's very strong, showing both the humanity and tyranny of its extremists. #cannes
— Alison Willmore (@alisonwillmore) May 14, 2014
Timbuktu reminded me of Wim a Wenders' Piña. An elaborate but of nearly danced performance art. #Cannes
— David Poland (@DavidPoland) May 14, 2014
— Eren Odabasi (@festivalbuzz) May 14, 2014
Timbuktu was a bit of a snooze. 6/10 #Cannes
— David Ketchum (@KetchumAtMovies) May 14, 2014
Competition opener Timbuktu - only African film up for Palme d'Or - is a hard-hitting but unsensational look at Jihadist persecution #Cannes
— Total Film (@totalfilm) May 14, 2014
TIMBUKTU is downbeat but also quite funny; unlike other movies about jihadists, situates tragedy in richly developed community. #cannes
— erickohn (@erickohn) May 14, 2014
So, thus far, mostly favorable reactions to the film, which is obviously a good thing, and only makes me even more anxious to see it eventually!
Sissako is certainly no stranger to Cannes. Along with the late Ousmane Sembène, Souleymane Cissé, Idrissa Ouedraogo and Djibril Diop Mambety, he's one of a few filmmakers from Sub-Saharan Africa to enjoy real and rooted international reach. His 2002 film, Waiting for Happiness (Heremakono), was screened at the Cannes Film Festival that year, as an official selection in the Un Certain Regard program, and went on to win the FIPRESCI Prize. His 2007 film Bamako, also received much international attention, including a César Award nomination (France's equivalent of the Academy Award) for its star Aïssa Maïga, as well as a Lumiere Award for Best French-Language Film, which it won.
Watch a clip from Timbuktu below: