Oscar-nominated 'Timbuktu' director Abderrahmane Sissako to speak at IU

Senegalese filmmaker Jo Gaï Ramaka also to appear at film, workshop

  • April 3, 2015


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Leading international filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako will visit Indiana University for a weeklong series of events in April.

Sissako will entertain questions after a screening of his most recent film, "Timbuktu," on April 16 at IU Cinema and will deliver a Jorgensen Guest Filmmaker Lecture the following day. "Timbuktu" was nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign language film in 2015; won coveted César Awards in France for best film, best director and best original screenplay; and received several major awards at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.

After a screening of "Bamako" on April 17, Sissako will discuss the politics of post-colonial development in Africa with fellow filmmaker Jo Gaï Ramaka of Senegal.

"We are thrilled to have Abderrahmane Sissako visit IU for a retrospective of his work. He is an African filmmaker of world renown," said Marissa Moorman, an associate professor of history at IU. "His playful touch and visually rich films present big questions about the human condition to audiences."

Moorman, whose research focuses on southern Africa, has been instrumental in bringing both filmmakers to Bloomington. She is one of five members of the IU faculty who founded New Media and Literary Initiatives in Africa five years ago. The program aims to advance research collaborations between creators, scholars and cultural institutions in Africa and their counterparts at IU. As part of this initiative, Sissako and Ramaka will participate in a public workshop April 15.

A man of many nations

Born in Mauritania, Sissako was raised in neighboring Mali, studied filmmaking in Russia and now lives in France.

He first received widespread acclaim for his 1998 film "Life on Earth," which traveled to international film festivals under the name "La Vie sur Terre."

Sissako makes motion pictures that are not only important but beautiful.

"Abderrahmane Sissako's mastery as a filmmaker comes through in his delicate use of often stunningly beautiful images to symbolize complex and painful situations," IU Cinema director Jon Vickers said. "The word 'poetry' is most often associated with his work. His films also address the challenges of modernity in societies layered in tradition.

"IU Cinema is honored to work with the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and Institut Français once again on another small U.S. tour with a renowned international filmmaker," he said.

With the support of these organizations, Sissako also has been able to visit the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

'Abderrahmane Sissako: Transnational Poetic Cinema'

Films in this IU Cinema retrospective feature dialogue in French and other languages, with English subtitles. Screenings are free, but ticketed:

  • 6:30 p.m. April 12, "Waiting for Happiness" (2002) -- Winner of a Cannes International Critics Award, this drama traces intersecting lives of people in a coastal town where external forces confront local graces and the Sahara Desert meets the Atlantic Ocean.
  • 6:30 p.m. April 16, "Timbuktu" (2014) -- Sissako takes a fictional lens to the Islamic extremist takeover that has occurred in this Mali city known for its ancient golden age. He finds beauty and humanity amid the violence and hypocrisy of Sharia law, which has imposed dress codes and banned music and soccer. IU associate professor of history John Hanson will lead a question-and-answer session with Sissako after the film.
  • 9:30 p.m. April 16, "Short Films of Abderrahmane Sissako" -- This 75-minute program includes all of the director's short-form works, including "October," "Tiya's Dream" and "Sabriya."
  • 3 p.m. April 17, "Jorgensen Guest Filmmaker Lecture With Abderrahmane Sissako" -- The event will be presented in the form of an onstage interview, led by Akin Adesokan, associate professor of comparative literature. English translation will be provided for Sissako.
  • 6:30 p.m. April 17, "Bamako" (2006) -- Citizens in Mali put the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund on trial in the courtyard of a typical home while daily life proceeds around them in this politically astute, culturally rich and funny film. Afterward, Moorman will lead a discussion with Sissako and Ramaka. The audience will have a chance to ask questions.
  • 9:30 p.m. April 17, "Rostov-Luanda" (1998) -- This documentary traces Sissako's search for an old friend in the war-torn capital of Angola. His travels reveal the physical and emotional legacy of conflict, showing both hope and broken promises.
  • 3 p.m. April 19, "Life on Earth" (1998) -- Drama and humor mix in Mali in this "fictional documentary" set on the last day of the last century. Images of the border town Sokolo are interspersed with songs by Salif Keita and readings from a critic of colonialism.

Tickets are required for all films at IU Cinema and can be obtained at the IU Auditorium box office from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; at the cinema one hour before any screening; or by phone at 812-855-1103 for a $10 service fee per order.

New Media and Literary Initiatives in Africa workshop

During their visit to Indiana University, Sissako and Ramaka will meet privately with classes and faculty. Sissako also will participate in a screenwriting workshop and will visit the university's Black Film Center/Archive, a repository of films and related materials by and about African Americans, which also includes a research database of more than 8,000 films.

In addition to these private events, a public workshop will be held:

  • 3 p.m. April 15, New Media and Literary Initiatives in Africa workshop – Ramaka's current work "Plan Jaxaay!" and "1000 Flashdrives for the Environment" will be the centerpiece of the workshop. This two-hour event in Room E159 of the Wells Library is free and open to the public, but space is limited. Sissako also is scheduled to attend.

The visits of Sissako and Ramaka, the film series "Abderrahmane Sissako: Transnational Poetic Cinema" and the filmmakers' other events at Indiana University are sponsored by the College Arts and Humanities Institute; African Studies Program; the Black Film Center/ Archive; the Department of Comparative Literature; the Department of History; the Russian East European Institute; the Office of the Vice President for International Affairs; The Media School and its Film and Media Studies program; and IU Cinema. Special thanks to cultural services of the French Embassy, Institut Français, Amélie Garin-Davet and Marissa Moorman.

The Jorgensen Guest Filmmaker Lecture Series is made possible by the generous support of the Ove W Jorgensen Foundation. Past guests have included Natalia Almada, Peter Bogdanovich, Claire Denis, Ava DuVernay, Werner Herzog, Abbas Kiarostami, Kevin Kline, Edward James Olmos, Meryl Streep and Peter Weir.

Related Links

Abderrahmane Sissako

Abderrahmane Sissako

Print-Quality Photo

A still from Sissako's film "Timbuktu."

A still from Sissako's film "Timbuktu."

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A still from Sissako's film "Bamako"

A still from Sissako's film "Bamako" | Photo by Archipel 33/The Kobal Collection

Print-Quality Photo

Media Contacts

Marissa  Moorman

  • Department of History
  • Office 812-855-5384

Jon Vickers

  • IU Cinema
  • Office 812-855-7632