Oscar-Nominated 'Timbuktu' to Screen in Paris Suburb After All

'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 film had been banned by the mayor following the city's terrorist attacks, but will now screen and be followed by a discussion with religious leaders.

Oscar-nominated Timbuktu will once again screen in the Paris suburb of Villiers-sur-Marne after being banned by the mayor in the area following the jihadist attacks on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery.

Mayor Jacques-Alain Benisti removed the film from its scheduled Jan. 21 opening in the town, saying that he feared the film "makes an apology for terrorism" and did not want the screening to create tension in the town while France was still reeling from the attacks.

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Following a public outcry in support of the film, Benisti has now said the film will start screening in the town on Jan. 27, followed by a public discussion with a local imam and representatives from other religions.

"If this film was advocating terrorism, it would not have been nominated in the category of best foreign-language [film] for the Oscar. It would not have been presented in many film festivals since Cannes in the Muslim world, in Doha, Tunis and Marrakech," said Le Pacte president Jean Labadie, the French distributor of the film, in an interview with newspaper Le Figaro following the announcement.

Director Abderrahmane Sissako has been consistently adamant that the film, which depicts the jihadist takeover of the Malian city as both serious and almost farcical at times, is meant as a strong statement against terrorism.

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The subject had been particularly touchy as Villiers-sur-Marne is the hometown of Hayat Boumediene, the partner of grocery gunman Amedy Coulibaly. When he first objected to the screening, Benisti said he was afraid that young people might be inspired by the film.

The film opened in France on Dec. 10 and has attracted more than 550,000 admissions so far. It is currently showing on more than 500 screens across the country.