SUNDAY OPINION: POLITICIANS don’t make good movie critics (and probably never will)

Last Updated: January 19, 2015By Tags: ,

FRANCE – This week, the right wing-leaning mayor of a small Parisian suburban town ordered local theaters to take the film “Timbuktu” (directed by Abderrahmane Sissako) off its program slate “in the name of the fight against glorifying terrorism.”

The terrorist attacks that occurred in France last week have had many consequences, this incomprehensible cancelation of “Timbuktu” by Monsieur le Mayor being the collateral damage.

According to French daily Le Parisien, the mayor, one Jacques-Alain Bénisti (he is a member of France’s UMP party), had initially canceled the film’s screenings after declaring that he would not “glorify terrorism,” this in spite of the fact that “Timbuktu” had gotten a very positive welcome at the last Cannes Festival. Film has had an impressive run ever since its December release. “Timbuktu” is also among the nominees for an Academy Award for best foreign film.

After cracking under pressure from the opposition party P.S. (parti socialiste) and a popular uprising across local media and social networks the dumbbass mayor announced that the film’s theatrical release would be delayed by a few weeks, instead. In a desperate attempt to get away from under the much-ado-about-nothing awkwardness he caused the mayor added, “you should know that Hayat Boumeddiene [the wife of dead terrorist Amedy Coulibaly] is a native of that town. At the time of the attacks, she had become a hero to some people from those communities. For others, it tainted that city’s reputation. Knowing the context I did not want to show a film as violent and as close to recent events as “Timbuktu.”

What the mayor failed to notice is that people who support, or are related to, the terrorists probably have never seen the inside of a movie theater, much less formulated an opinion about cinema. It’s generally agreed, I think, that Islamists can’t be counted on to ramp up movie sales so why worry about those God-crazy jackasses?

Here’s a comment from Sylvie Pialat, the film’s producer, in response to the mayor’s strange shenanigans:

“Timbuktu is the opposite of a glorification of terrorism. I’m trying to get how one can decide not to show a film that was nominated for an Oscar and that was shown in official competition at Cannes. As if it were possible that the U.S. would select a film that glorifies terrorism … this behavior [the mayor’s] is akin to censorship.”

This sad state of events reminds me of when former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani proclaimed himself the new arbiter in taste and banned the Chris Ofili painting “Virgin Mary covered in dung” when it came to the city for exhibition in the early Aughts. This new and harrowing display of ignorance and political-correctness by an elected official is proof, as if any was needed, that politicians do not make good film critics (and probably never will).

NEXT! (quotes have been republished courtesy of Les Inrocks)

(the views reflected in this article do not represent those of Screen Comment but rather those of this writer only).