From Charlie to Timbuktu via Les Héritiers

France is still feeling the pain of the recent massacres but people are asking “Why?” and maybe they will find some answers in two films we were privileged to see in the past week.

The first was Les Héritiers  seen the Sunday night of the Unity March.


Click on the image to see the trailer in French.

Synopsis: D’après une histoire vraie.
Lycée Léon Blum de Créteil, une prof décide de faire passer un concours national d’Histoire à sa classe de seconde la plus faible. Cette rencontre va les transformer.

Based on a true story. A teacher, at the Lycée Léon Blum de Créteil, decided to get her, very weak, second year students to enter a national history competition. The experience completely changed them.

What was most pertinent about this film was the opening scene. A young veiled Muslim woman returns to the school to collect her exam results. The assistant head teacher reminds her very forcibly and extremely rudely that the wearing of scarves is forbidden for students. The ex-student reminds the teacher that she is no longer a student. This sets the scene . The student mix is multi-ethnical., multi racial and with low expectations. The young history teacher, without raising her voice, gets the students working together enthusiastically on the national history project. Despite being a true story the film ends, as films should, happily.

Timbuktu is also loosely based on a situation which happened in Mali in 2010 but there the similarities end.


Trailer in English


A group of young Jihadists move in and impose Sharia law on the music loving, laid back citizens of Timbuktu. At first they are incredulous and a young fish seller tries to protest when forced to wear gloves.

Kidane is a young farmer living, in his tent, in the desert with his wife and daughter. He accidentially kills his fisherman neighbour after the latter kills Kidanes cow.  The Jihadists mete out the full rigors of Sharia law both on Kidane and the young musicians of the area. The brutal scenes are all the more horrifying in the middle of the beautiful soft desert surroundings.

The film shows what indoctrination does to young men and how it removes all capacity for compassion. It also shows the local Imam trying to reason calmly with the Jihadists when one of them forcibly marries a beautiful local girl. But they coldly ignore him.

This is a beautifully crafted film which shows both sides of the islamic divide. Unfortunately a Mayor in Paris thought fit to ban the film without first having viewed it… A report  below.

French Mayor Bans Anti-Jihadist Muslim Film


Je suis Charlie or Am I?

The past week, here in France, has forced me to look at what it means to be a foreigner here. I love the country with a passion but am forced to reflect.

Do I really understand France?

No matter where one lives one gravitates towards people who have the same values as ourselves. People with whom we are comfortable.  Life slips by and our circle of friends and acquaintances expands. But the mosaic of their beliefs and values remains pretty consistent with our own.

In Africa our circle contained many Muslim people. Not surprising because 98% of the population of the area, where we lived, was Muslim. Here in France we can count only one Muslim among our acquaintance…..

What we read is also a reflection of who and what we are. When searching for something to read on a magazine stand I was never tempted to take up Charlie Hebdo. I often perused the cover but most times I either did not get the satire or I found it distasteful. But because I am in France I have the choice to spend my money on another magazine. The editors of Charlie Hebdo have the right to publish it.

For this reason I decided to participate in the Unity marches on Sunday.

It was a very dignified affair in our little adopted village. and in the afternoon I went to a neighbouring town where a bigger, less well organised, and less dignified, march took place.

Here are some images from these two marches.

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The press has reported that almost 4 million people participated in marches around the country. The population of France is 66.03 million (2013 census). Six percent of the people of France participated in these unity marches – where were the other 94%?

If a march was organised next Sunday to show solidarity  for the thousands of Nigerians kidnapped or killed by extremists in that country what percentage of any population would turn out?