It is said that the Academy members watch about five minutes of whatever foreign language film screener they feel like and vote on that, which may be true, but before they even have the chance to ignore the movies, the screening committee has to select them.
The screening committee and I seldom see eye-to-eye.
Such is the case with Timbuktu. This is the story of people living in and around the titular city in Mali who are Muslims, but who have recently been placed under some sort of super-Islam, possibly Sharia. The sub-Saharan world is largely dysfunctional, and what we have here is a story of a bunch of thugs breaking the few things that do.
The main story concerns a goat-herder and his little family living outside Timbuktu. The arab schmuck who seems be chief enforcer of the jackassery likes to come around when the goat-herder's away to try, in his own pathetic way, to attract the goat-herder's wife. She's neither fooled nor impressed.
Meanwhile, there's defiance, as a fishmonger woman refuses to put on gloves—we're just outside the Sahara, recall—and people play music, which is apparently forbidden, even if it's to Allah. Maybe. The stormtroopers in charge of enforcing things have to radio in, "Well, they're doing this, is that okay?"
But weirdly mixed in with the defiance is a kind of feeble acquiescence to things. The fishmonger allows herself—insists, even—to be hauled off. The music lovers quietly submit to their fates in front of friends and family.
I don't know. It's...odd. It's dystopic. It's not bad. It's far from great, though. We don't learn enough about any of the characters. It may be that the flow of events is perfectly logical in Mali but we couldn't figure out how the ending, in particular, made sense.
It's shot well enough. The first five minutes are as good as any other first five minutes, we guessed.
Mostly we just came out of this one scratching our heads.