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Special Timbuktu evening: Beauty to combat violence

IMG_7527Crowds gathered for the special Abderrahmane Sissako evening on Monday February 1st. The screening of Timbuktu, a multi-award winning film, attracted a large Polynesian audience who were obliged to share two projection rooms, the Big Theatre and the Little Theatre. Reportage…

 

In the middle of the Big Theatre stage, a man is trying to find his words. Surrounded by the Polynesian Minister for Culture and the chairman of the AFIFO, Abderrahmane Sissako is moved. ‘I am very touched by the humanity of the Polynesian people whom I am meeting for the first time. I have been shown with great kindness and depth. I don’t think that words are strong enough to express what I feel.’ The Mauritanian director doesn’t say much more to the public, preferring to step aside for the screening of his film that was awarded seven times at the Césars.

 

Showing horror through beauty

 

Super shot, super framing!’ Right from the start of the film, some audience members marvel at the film’s quality and beauty. But the story of Timbuktu is more shocking… With strength, poetry and humour, Abderrahmane shows horror, he shows the Islamic occupation in the town of Timbuktu, located in northern Mali. Forbidden to play football, to smoke cigarettes, to play music, but also forced marriages, persecution, stoning and injustice… The arrival of the Islamists in Timbuktu drastically changed the lives of its inhabitants. However, in spite of the ferocious repression, the inhabitants courageously resist. ‘I really loved the film’s rhythm. There is no excessive action or drama. The director gives us time to get into the film,’ confides 31-year old François. Abderrahmane Sissako indeed explains during a discussion with the public, after the screening that ended with a barrage of applause. ‘I used the language of independent art cinema to portray violence. I do not go down the spectacular route as it becomes banal. I used beauty to portray violence, as in the face of barbarity we need to respond with values that cannot be destroyed!

 

The courage of the victims of terrorists

 

Shy to begin with, the audience in the Big Theatre eventually gained the courage to speak. ‘You shot part of the film in Mauritania, from what point did you feel the atmosphere change in the Sahel region?’ questions an old man who gets up from his folding seat. The director answers spontaneously. ‘My work needs to be simplified. I am not a specialist in questions, I just wanted to show life under the occupation.’ And to add, a little later, by answering another member of the audience: ‘A film is not made to be explained. It belongs to those who watch it, everyone can form their own interpretation of it.’ In turns, the director responds to each of question, from the curious: discussions range from the six languages spoken in the film to the flamboyant character who escapes repression by the Islamists and the barbarity of the terrorists. There is also the question of the terrible attacks that affected Paris on 13th November 2015. ‘Like in my film, people were very brave,’ the move director confides thanking with humour the Polynesians for coming, known for, according to him, going to bed early. ‘I am honoured that you stayed! 

 

Reality revealed

Upon leaving, the discussions are well advanced in front of the screening room in the Big Theatre. The film went down well. The film also seems to stimulate discussion. ‘We are so lucky to still be able to dance the ori Tahiti!’ exclaims a Polynesian to her friend. Suzie and Caroline are happy to be living in a free country. ‘This film reminds us of this! It is important that this kind of film is shown as it shows reality. Our children have to see it. We have to know that it is like that and, thus, be aware of our luck.’ A little further, in the darkened corridor, a group of friends is discussing. All three appreciated the beauty of the film, its aesthetics. But not only that… ‘We are living in a world in which we are always aware of everything, but in the end nothing affects us. The minute afterwards we have already switched onto something else. This film enables you see reality up close. And, it’s efficient! We are a little lost for words,’ confides Aymeric. The thirty year old was very touched by film and its story. Like the whole audience, ultimately.