Local Filmmaker Captures an Imaginary City (To Some)

While the national debate roils about whether or not it's a good idea to build a mosque at Ground Zero, a local filmmaker is spotlighting what could be the world's most misunderstood center of Islamic learning. You might say he wants to "Blow 'em all to Timbuktu."

Mohammed Kamara is releasing a documentary that hopes to revisit and restore the ancient image of Timbuktu, possibly bringing it a little closer to home. After all, many people believe the city only exists in myth (and Donald Duck cartoons).

Beyond Time and Timbuktu examines the historical development of the West African city by depicting its cultural narratives, tradition and legacy, while boldly and humorously revealing some of the more widespread misconceptions about the city.

Kamara, who lives in Houston but was born in Guinea and grew up in Liberia, said he wanted to make the film not only because of his personal connection to Africa, but also because of his concern with cultural misunderstanding in all societies. "Popular perceptions of Timbuktu often characterize the city as a place of exile or fantasy," says Kamara, founder of Houston's former Pan-Cultural Film Festival. "As an artist, I believe that the more we come to know and understand other people and societies beyond our own borders, the better prepared we will be to act as global citizens."

The film explores the living city of Timbuktu, as well as the place of fantasy. What emerges onscreen is the distinct character and voice of Timbuktu as it exists in the images, songs and words of those who call it home, as well as those who know the name only through legend, idiom or literature.

Beyond Time and Timbuktu is scheduled to be released this spring (pending location filming) and includes interviews with Rice University scholars David Cook and Elias Bongmba, as well as an extended conversation with author Tom Robbins.

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