PRINT January 2015


the films of Abderrahmane Sissako

Abderrahmane Sissako, Timbuktu, 2014, digital video, color, sound, 97 minutes. Kidane (Ibrahim Ahmed).

TODAY, ABDERRAHMANE SISSAKO is one of the most celebrated of Africa’s filmmakers, yet he remains something of an outlier. His cinema might best be thought of as free verse rather than narrative cinema, in which every shot is subjected to the teleological necessity of the story, for his images are composed with an uncommon freedom and the way in which they relate to one another and to the film as a whole is typically indeterminate, ambiguous, or suggestively metaphorical. Sissako’s recourse to a poetic language as his signature contribution to African cinema—generally considered a cinema of identitarian revendication, resistance, and political struggle—raises crucial questions with respect to image production in postcolonial Africa. First, what does it mean when Sissako’s critics argue—or at least imply—that the complex language of poetry has no place in African

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