Wulu, the Malian Scarface
by Michela Greco, Cinecittà News

Last night Como’s stunning Teatro Sociale, readapted as a screening theater for the 26th edition of Noir in Festival, hosted the exploits of Ladji (Ibrahim Koma), a twenty-something bus driver in Mali who is tired of seeing his sister prostitute herself and decides to apply his knowledge of the transport industry to drug trafficking. For once, the signature style of the noir genre is superimposed on the white skies of Africa and the muddy roads of Senegal, Mali and Guinea, as a quiet and unassuming, yet smart young man resolves to cross over to the "dark side", which will indeed offer him a role in society that has its material rewards, but is morally bankrupt. In fact, the title Wulu refers to the word for "dog" in the Bambara language, which holds dogs to be symbols of the attainment of a solid position in society.

In Daouda Coulibaly’s first feature film, after two shorts in which he explored themes touching on recent history or cultural identity (A History of Independence and Tinyè So), the Franco-Malian filmmaker (born in Marseille) chooses an African setting and African culture for his story of a criminal’s rapid ascent riddled with shootouts, trafficking, bribes and power games. Coulibaly exhibits a very personal style and a surprisingly sure hand.

It all comes together in this promising debut by a filmmaker to watch: the noir plot structure is seamlessly integrated with the colorful Malian atmosphere (with no small help from a remarkable "ethnic noir" soundtrack); and the main character is believable as an upstanding youth who lucidly decides to get rich on his own talents. As is always the case for well-made films, the thriller is a perfect vehicle for portraying society and its ills. Indeed, through Ladji’s successful foray into crime, Wulu examines the causes of the 2012 civil war in Mali.