MARRAKECH — Abderrahmane Sissako’s “Timbuktu,” Mauritania’s first ever foreign-language Oscar candidate, is proving a hit at the French box office, grossing over 109,000 Euros ($135,000) on opening day.
The movie, which world premiered in competition at Cannes and earned unanimously upbeat reviews, was released by Jean Labadie’s Le Pacte on Wednesday across 150 French screens and sold 17,394 admissions in a single day.
It’s not only the best B.O. performance ever achieved by a Sissako movie, it’s also one of the highest-grossing openings for a world-cinema title in recent years, pointed out Camille Neel, head of international sales at Le Pacte.
Sissako’s follow-up to “Bamako,” “Timbuktu” has so far outperformed recent arthouse hits such as Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar-winning “A Separation” and “The Past,” Ari Folman’s foreign-language Oscar contender “Waltz With Bashir,” Pawel Pawlikowski’s Golden-Globe nominated “Ida” and Haifaa Al-Mansour’s BAFTA-nommed “Wajda.”
Produced by Sylvie Pialat’s Les Films du Worso, “Timbuktu” has been sold by Le Pacte in more than 50 countries, including every key market.
Cohen Media Group will release the movie in the U.S. and is positioning it as a key candidate for the foreign-language Oscar.
Set against the backdrop of the Malian independence struggle, “Timbuktu” is a politically engaged and poetic fable following the lives of several villagers who fight the oppressive and barbarian occupation of Islamic fundamentalists.
The foreign-language Oscar nominees will be unveiled on Jan. 15.
This year’s foreign-language Oscar race is particularly competitive: A record 83 countries have submitted films. Mauritania is one of the four first-timers, along with Malta, Kosovo and Panama.