By Dave Montalbano
The best thing about the awards’ season is that interesting motion pictures are being released at local theaters. Timbuktu has been nominated for best foreign language motion picture, the first entry from Mauritania, a country from the continent of Africa. Timbuktu is a beautiful motion picture, but with a depressing theme about Sharia law. Not since The Stoning of Soraya M. has a motion picture so addressed the terrors of Islamic fundamentalism.
This film opens and closes with symbolism, a group of thugs race across the desert with automatic rifles — shooting at a racing deer, most likely a doe. Moments later, the thugs use sacred relics as target practice. The tone of the film shifts to a bucolic setting of farmers and cattle ranchers.
With low-key acting, we watch a husband and wife quietly discuss the affairs of the day. While under the tent, these individuals entertain themselves with stories and the playing of musical instruments. They talk about their dreams, expectations and a better future.
Yet, in town, we witness a primitive Orwellian world. The hooded thought police troll the streets in search of neighbors violating Sharia Law. Rumors, gossip and hearsay are treated as fact in the kangaroo court of the land. This surreal environment creates a distressing situation that eventually leads to multiple tragedies between honorable people and profane sycophants.
The word “Timbuktu” evokes exotic romance. Director Abderrahmane Sissako provides these expectations with glorious cinematography; but, he also creates a human story about a culture that is so foreign to the American way of life.
With much media hype, but modest box office gains, Selma has been nominated for best song and best motion picture. Much like last year’s Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Selma presents producer Oprah Winfrey’s perspective of civil rights history. Both films are entertaining with humane themes. Yet, when one walks out of Selma, one feels as if they sat in a historical lecture from a biased professor. The rhetoric veers toward propaganda with incomplete historical detail.
Most notably, the casting of British actors Tom Wilkinson and Tim Roth as President Johnson and Governor Wallace, respectively. The two British compatriots come across as stereotypical two-faced cackling villains, which detracts from David Oyelowo’s sincere performance as Martin Luther King Jr.