In 2012, Mali fell into violent unrest when a group of rebel soldiers overthrew the government and took control. The coup left the once politically stable West African nation vulnerable to al Qaeda militants, who seized the country’s northern region – including the major city of Timbuktu – and began an assault on Malian culture. Years after the conflict first erupted, one documentary will show how a courageous group of Malian musicians united in an effort to salvage their cherished traditions and bring peace back to their homeland.
In his film Return to Timbuktu, director Michael Meredith focuses on Mali’s famous Festival au Desert and its organizer, Manny Ansar. The music gathering, which has taken place since 2001, was forced into exile due to the chaos – in response, Ansar and his team decided to create a “Caravan of Peace,” which would lead a “procession of traveling musicians around the world, from refugee camps to villages to world stages and the United Nations spreading the message of peace and reunification for Mali.” Meredith captured their progress last year, and recently launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for the rest of the project, which will follow the group’s “defiant” journey back to Timbuktu.
In addition, Variety announced that acclaimed filmmakers Alex Gibney and Wim Wenders have signed on to produce the film. Gibney, whose numerous credits include the highly provocative documentaries Taxi to the Dark Side and We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks, will serve as producer, while Wenders, who’s currently working on his next 3D outing, Every Thing Will Be Fine, will serve as executive producer. Meredith and Wenders – who previously worked together on Three Days of Rain, The Open Road, and Land of Plenty – have followed Ansar around the world during his campaign to spread international awareness of the Malian crisis.
Considering the lack of media attention surrounding Mali’s troubles, Return to Timbuktu should make for an eye-opening experience enhanced by the involvement of two master documentarians. For more details, see the film’s Indiegogo campaign video below:
Were you aware of the problems in Mali? Do you think Return to Timbuktu will shed light on it?