PARIS– Abderrahmane Sissako’s “Timbuktu,” a foreign-language Oscar nominee, is turning out to be a significant world cinema hit in France in the wake of the terrorist attacks that hit Paris.
Released on Dec. 10 in 150 screens by Le Pacte, the modestly-budgeted movie has so far grossed over 4 million Euros ($4.5 million) from 622 799 tickets sold, and attendance was up 12% last week. Taking into account the positive word of mouth and increased interest in the film, Le Pacte then upped the number of screens to 514.
The movie, produced by Sylvie Pialat’s Les Films du Worso, depicts the struggle and alienation of Malians who fought the occupation of Jihadists in 2012.
“To this day, ‘Timbuktu’ has played in 1281 theaters, that’s impressive considering France counts around 1500 screens,” said Camille Neel, head of international sales at Le Pacte.
Sissako told Variety that he decided to embark into “Timbuktu” after hearing about the stoning of a woman. “It deeply revolted me, and I felt the urge to make this film,” said the helmer, who also emphasized that his movie is meant to show that “Islam has nothing to do with barbarism and jihadists: Islam itself has been held hostage.”
As it resonates with current events, “Timbuktu” has proven even more relevant in the aftermath of the Paris’ terrorist attacks orchestrated by Al Qaeda that killed 17 people at Charlie Hebdo and the Kosher supermarket.
The film has also sparked some controversy. “Timbuktu” was indeed banned from being shown in Villiers-sur-Marne, a Parisian suburb, because the major, Jacques-Alain Bénisti – who admitted he hadn’t watched the film — feared it would incite young people to become Jihadists. Benisti later back down and allowed it to be released.
“Timbuktu” was also scheduled to play this week at Belgium’s Ramdam film fest that had to be shut down because of a terrorist threat.
Pic world-premiered in competition at Cannes, and while it didn’t nab a prize – a snub for many industryites and film journos — it earned near-unanimous warm reviews and sold to all major territories.
“(‘Timbuktu’) is a stunningly shot condemnation of intolerance and its annihilation of diversity, told in a way that clearly denounces without resorting to cardboard perpetrators,” wrote Variety’s Jay Weissberg.
Cohen Media Group will release “Timbuktu” in the U.S.on Jan.28.