Set in Mali in the lead up to their 2012 Civil War, Wùlu presents the story of a young Malian man who becomes involved in the thriving, illegal drug-trade within Western Africa with, not only dangerous, but often deadly consequences.
Bored by his unfulfilling job driving buses and looked over for a well-deserved promotion, his situation drives ambitious Ladji to his drug dealer connections in search of well-payed work in an effort to earn enough to prevent his sister from needing to work as a prostitute. At first Ladji takes on small jobs but as he quickly impresses those higher up through his creative drug-trafficking methods. He rapidly begins to rise within the ranks of the business. Along with the sudden burst of wealth comes a variety of dangerous and almost deadly responsibilities that push Ladji into a tortuous battle with his morals.
At times, Wùlu can be incredibly confronting as French-Malian Director Daouda Coulibaly has chosen not to hide anything, exposing the harsh realities that come with trying to survive in a third-world country. From witnessing cold-blooded murders, to women working as prostitutes just to survive day-to-day, Coulibaly gives the audience a raw understanding of the harsh realities some populations face. Slaughtered cows also feature heavily, and can be shown in truly graphic scenes as a reflection of the men within the illegal drug trade who are truly animals ready for the slaughter in their line of work.
One of the biggest factors in this film’s success is the audience’s complete submersion into the truly foreign, third-world countries that make up Western Africa. From dusty, bustling marketplaces and cramped, squalid shantytowns to the open stretches of brown, arid desert with little-to-no vegetation.
Lead actor Ibrahim Koma is outstanding as the hard-working drug runner Ladji. Although the main character, Ladji, really doesn’t really speak all that much but his presence is found through Koma’s purposeful body movement and emotive expressions, from utter frustration to a killer-like glare. As a new up-and-comer, Koma has taken a strong first step in the film industry and is well worth keeping an eye on.
Malian-French singer Inna Modja successfully portrays Ladji’s older sister, whose quick transformation from poor and broken prostitute in the slums to wealthy socialite leaves no room for questioning how her brother provides her money. Modja depicts a woman hardened through years of pain, poverty and struggle, and captures the selfish and distasteful side to her that wealth brings out.
Wùlu provides a deep look into a truly foreign land where basic human morals are in constant battle with the desperation for wealth and social status, and is well worth the intense and often confronting experience.
Reviewed by Georgina Smerd
Rating out of 10: 9