Malian director Abderrahmanne Sissako’s film tells what happens in Timbuktu when Islamist fundamentalists take over the surrounding area. Music is forbidden, as is football, and adulterers are buried in sand up to their heads and stoned to death. Sissako’s style is not wholly naturalistic, and his flights of poetic realism are the best part of a rather fractured narrative.
For instance, villagers play a game of football without a ball, and a young girl bursts into song as she is flogged for singing a religious song one night. The film looks good but doesn’t always explain itself too well. Even so, it is an audacious and a moving tribute to the townspeople’s brave opposition to the prowling fundamentalists.