Oscars: 'Timbuktu' Selected as Mauritania's Foreign Film Entry

'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)

Director Abderrahmane Sissako's drama premiered at Cannes

Jihadist drama Timbuktu will be Mauritania’s entry into the foreign language Oscar race.

Director Abderrahmane Sissako’s emotional drama about the occupation of Timbuktu by Islamic rebels had its world premiere in competition at Cannes. Though it represents the Malian city, the film was shot in Mauritania.

It tells the story of a family torn apart by the rise of Islamic fundamentalism.

The Hollywood Reporter’s critic Deborah Young called the project “boldly unorthodox” in her review of the film. “It’s not a film for all audiences, but despite its eccentricities it is always watchable, thanks to strongly drawn characters and the soul-stirring poetry of its imagery,” Young wrote. 

It is the fifth film from the France-based Sissako, who was born in Mauritania and raised in Mali.

Cohen Media Group picked up U.S. rights to the film during Cannes.