Abderrahmane Sissako Visits the Walker for a Film Retrospective

Abderrahmane Sissako, <i>Bamako</i>, 2006

Abderrahmane Sissako, Bamako, 2006

Back in February, we reviewed Abderrahmane Sissako's devastating and beautiful film Timbuktu, which received an Oscar nomination this year. This week, the film is coming back to the Walker Art Center, along with several other of Sissako's films. After each screening, there will be a post-show discussion with Sissako. It's a rare chance to dive into the work of one of the best filmmaker in Africa working today.

Sissako's relationship with the Walker Art Center harkens back to 2000 when his work Life on Earth, commissioned as a part of a series of films about the Millennium by the French Television company Arte, screened at the museum. The film follows Dramane, who returns home to his family's village in Mali from Paris. University of Minnesota professor Charles Sugnet, who will lead the discussion on Saturday, describes the film as being about disconnection and connection.

Sheryl Mousley, the film/video curator at the Walker, says that the institution has been following Sissako's work ever since that first showing. The Walker has been working with the distributor of Timbuktu from even before it was nominated for the Academy Award. The Walker will be the first stop on a national tour Sissako is taking around the United States. "I'm so thrilled that he is going to be here in person," says Mousley.

This week, the Walker will be taking an expanded look at Sissako's films in a more retrospective approach. Activities include discussions between the filmmaker and different college professors from Carleton, Macalester, St. Olaf, and the University of Minnesota. Mousley hopes the expanded look at Sissako's work will help audiences' understanding of Timbuktu. "This kind of engagement with our audiences really lends to the power of the film," she says.

Sugnet has been talking to the Walker for a decade about bringing Sissako's films to the museum. "When the chance came to catch him, they made a good proposal," he says, referring to a tour the director is doing in select cities across the country. Sugnet helped organize the event, and has written the program notes.

In his talk with Sissako, he plans to discuss why he chose to make the film Timbuktu, which is about a Jihadist regime that overtakes Northern Mali and terrorizes the citizens of a small village. Sugnet says that one thing that interests him about Sissako's work is that he's always filming in spaces that are multilingual. "If you watch the film carefully there's a tremendous amount of miscommunication," he says.

In addition, Sugnet says he's struck by how in Timbuktu the violence is so horrifying that it actually becomes banal. "He's very smart. It's all about horrible events, but he presents it in such a brilliant way."

Sugnet also notes that in addition to Timbuktu, audiences should take the rare opportunity to see Sissako's other works. "All of his films are superb," he says.

Abderrahmane Sissako, <i>Life on Earth (La vie sur terre)</i>, 1998

Abderrahmane Sissako, Life on Earth (La vie sur terre), 1998


Life on Earth (La Vie Sur Terre) with October (Oktyabr)

7 p.m. Thursday, April 2


Post screening discussion with Sissako and Linda Mokdad, St. Olaf College

Waiting for Happiness (Heremakono)

7 p.m.  Friday, April 3

$12 ($10 Walker members, students and seniors)

Post screening discussion with Sissako and Cherif Keita, Carleton College


4 p.m. Saturday, April 4

$12 ($10 Walker member, students and seniors)

Post screening discussion with Sissako and Joëlle Vitiello, Macalester College

Abderrahmane Sissako on the set of "Timbuktu"

Abderrahmane Sissako on the set of "Timbuktu"


7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 4

$12 ($10 Walker member, students and seniors)

Post screening discussion with Sissako and Charles Sugnet, University of Minnesota