I usually don’t watch a movie based on a trailer. I find most of the trailers these days tell enough of the movie to keep me from seeing the movie. Especially comedies which have most, if not all, of the jokes. Seems the trailer-making folks have forgotten that trailers are an artform. Their job is to get me to want to see the movie. Only “Gravity” recently has done that for me.

So when I saw the trailer for “Timbuktu”, I went, “Hmmm.” Then “Maybe, just maybe.” The music got my initial attention. I especially wanted to know how a blues number was in a movie that had a setting where the blues shouldn’t be. In addition, there was this contrast between the guys with the guns and the ordinary people. All this intrigued me.

I must say that my expectations about the movie had risen against my better judgement. When the blu-ray arrived from Netflix, I decided maybe this one needed a night when I could focus on the movie.

I was not disappointed. This is a film I want to see several times. The ancient Malian city of Timbuktu could be a distant world from ours. The setting did remind me of David Lynch’s “Dune” as well as Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Sheltering Sky”. Life there is that alien to a modern westerner.

Stuck on the edge of the desert, life goes on despite the city being occupied by jihadist. The citizens find ways to thumb their noses at the occupiers. Like boys playing football (soccer) without a soccer ball. Refusing to wear gloves which the jihadist demand for some strange reason. Singing and playing music against the jihadist directive. It gives a real glimpse into how life goes on, no matter who’s in charge.

But the main story is of a cattle herder, Kidane, his wife, Satima, and Toya, his beloved daughter. It is this family’s relationship, and the ordinariness of it, that director, Abderrahmane Sissako, uses to reveal the humanity of these people.

It’s been a long time since I have been introduced to a great contemporary film. In addition to a wonderful story and great music, the cinematography was absolutely gorgeous. But I gotta tell you this is a great film. I was not disappointed at all.


Why did she have to raise cabbage? Anything but cabbage. Charles hated cabbage, and she knew he hated it.

Since they were married for the past twenty years, Helene had been obsessed with cabbage. Just try it this way, she said time and again. This way or that way was never going to work for him. He hated cabbage.

“Charles,” she said to him a number of times, “the rabbits are eating my cabbage.”

“Good,” Charles responded. “Now you don’t get to force it into me.”

“You know you would love my cabbage strudel if you would give it the old college try.” Just the thought of cabbage strudel about drove Charles insane.

He gave murder some thought over the years. No judge would convict Charles. “Your Honor,” he would say, “you will understand when you hear the circumstances of my crime. You will have no reason to convict me of the murder of my wife.”

After the judge heard his plea, he would immediately release Charles. “Justifiable homicide. No man could live with the persecution Charles has lived with for twenty years.”

This was Charles’ reasoning for some years, but no more. The country had gone cabbage crazy. It was becoming harder and harder to find a restaurant, a tavern or a friend who did not serve a cabbage dish with every meal.

Finally a solution came to Charles. A one way ticket to America. He had heard that America was a savage country where men and women ate only meat. America, everybody claimed, was a barbarous place.

The westward voyage was such a comfort. Not one meal on the menu offered cabbage. The ship passed the Statue of Liberty with its promised freedom from the tyranny of cabbage. As the ship moved into its berth at the port of New York, Charles smiled his broadest smile. He had turned his back on the religious persecution of his home country’s love of cabbage. Before him stood a cabbage-free life.

The ship docked. Charles gathered up his bags and headed into the city. His plan was to follow Horace Greeley’s advice of “Go West, Young Man.” Soon he would be on a train to California. First he must try a meal at one of New York’s finest restaurants.

Charles opened the menu and read. He just about vomitted. It seemed America’s finest restaurants too had embraced the contagion. Before him were offerings of cabbage and potatoes, cabbage rolls, boil-that-cabbage-down, cabbage stew and cabbage burgers. Cabbage mania had struck America when Charles wasn’t looking.

On and on the cabbage dishes ran until he came to the final offering. “Cabbage strudel topped with a dab of vanilla ice cream.” It was named, of all things, Cabbage a la Helene.