Cannes: Cohen Media Group Takes 'Timbuktu' for U.S.

'Timbuktu,' Abderrahmane Sissako (Competition)

The sole representative of African cinema in competition this year, the fifth solo directing effort from the Mauritania-born, Mali-raised Sissako was inspired by the real-life story of the 2012 stoning in Northern Mali of a young unmarried couple by Islamists in front of hundreds of onlookers. Sissako is one of the filmmakers from sub-Saharan Africa to enjoy international recognition, and he's been a Cannes regular. Both Bamako (2007) and Waiting for Happiness (2002) screened on the Croisette, the latter winning the Fipresci critics honor for titles screening in the Un Certain Regard sidebar. (Sales: Le Pacte)

The competition film tells the story of the brief occupation of Timbuktu by militant Islamic rebels.

Hours ahead of the Palme d'Or awards ceremony in Cannes, Cohen Media Group has acquired U.S. rights to competition title Timbuktu.

Directed by Abderrahmane Sissako, the film tells the story of the brief occupation of Timbuktu by militant Islamic rebels.

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John Kochman, CMG executive vice president, and Camille Neel, head of international sales for Le Pacte, negotiated the U.S. deal.

Timbuktu, which had its world premiere in competition, represents Sissako’s second film to play at the Cannes Film Festival.

Timbuktu is a movie that finds the raw, emotional heart in a political conflict and holds it up to the light," said Kochman in a statement. "Abderrahmane Sissako’s calm, objective eye paints characters who are all-too-real performing acts both heroic and hard to understand. He truly is one of Africa’s great filmmakers and Timbuktu is a masterpiece of storytelling, filmmaking, and human compassion. We are proud to be bringing it to a wider audience in America.”

THR's film critic Debroah Young said of the film in her review: "Timbuktu is a hard film to forget and once again brings Sissako to the center stage of African cinema. It is also an eye-opener on the methodical spread of Jihadist influence in the sub-Sahara in spite of popular resistance."