Woodstock in Timbuktu


"Woodstock in Timbuktu – the art of resistance” is a feature length documentary (86min) about a music festival in the Sahara – the nomadic culture and way of life.

In January 2011 the international Festival au Desert took place over three days in the dunes of Timbuktu, Mali, in West Africa. Hosted by the Tuareg or Kel Tamasheq, as they call themselves, the festival is the ideal setting for an encounter with this legendary people. Through intimate insight into nomadic life and ancient traditions, the Kel Tamasheq tell us of their plight, their fears and their fight for survival.

“Congratulations to Bombino from the Republic of Niger for replacing his Kalashnikov by the guitar…” This significant comment after a festival music performance opens the film. Mali is one of the poorest nations of the world and to maintain peace in an insecure political environment is the ambitious goal of the Festival au Desert. The extraordinarily gifted musicians of the Kel Tamasheq find inspiring ways to face this challenge and the film follows three bands from different regions, each telling their unique story.

AMANAR sings about the discrimination of the Kel Tamasheq. Spread over five different countries, they are in parts considered outlaws due to their traditional nomadic way of tending their camels. Pushed to the edge of society, the Kel Tamasheq are doomed to disappear forever if no actions are taken to preserve their time-honored customs.

TARTIT is a traditional band of women, who met in a refugee camp after fleeing during the 1990s’ rebellion to Burkina Faso, a small country south of Mali. Now they are protesting with their songs against thirst, war und underdevelopment of their Saharan homeland. In the Kel Tamasheq tradition women and men are equal - a factor creating tension with neighbouring African cultures.

BOMBINO has launched a celebrity career with a worldwide growing reputation. Their poetic lyrics tell the story of rebellion and pride, but band members also warn about the damaging effects of greed and uncontrolled looting of mineral resources in the Sahara by multinational companies. They also speak openly about al-Qaida “chickens,” and the growing threat of infiltration of the Sahara by militant Islamists.

Alongside great Saharan music, the film captures the mesmerizing beauty of the Saharan landscapes and its people. You will get to know the Kel Tamasheq, a highly spirited, cultivated and elegant Sahara people, who will open up new horizons and leave a deep imprint on your heart.

Nicole Joens & Désirée v. Trotha, 16. November 2011