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The Hollywood Reporter recently described WULU as a ‘West-African take on Scarface’, and rightfully so: this is a high-tension drug-running escapade, in which the dizzying heights of money and infamy come as quickly as their eventual downfall.

Wulu is the tale of Ladji, a taxi-driver, who loses his job and calls on a contact to make some cash – his dream being to pull his sister out of prostitution. However, this means stepping into the underworld of drug-running in West Africa, across dangerous borders and through war-torn, desolate areas. Ladji takes to it naturally, and quickly gains both wealthy and a type of infamy as the drug-runner who can’t be stopped. But Ladji soon finds that his achievements come with a heavy price to pay.

Coulibaly has brilliantly woven together a fast-paced, tense thriller with a heart…

This is French-Malian director Daouda Coulibaly’s first feature film, following the highly-lauded short TINYE SO (which played at the 2011 edition of the Cambridge African Film Festival). In WULU, Coulibaly has brilliantly woven together a fast-paced, tense thriller but with a heart – mainly in the form of his main character. He successfully catches the energy of the West-African setting; the vibrant, lively cityscapes and the open roads of the country, which pulls the audience into each step Ladji takes.

Surrounded by an excellent supporting cast, actor Ibrahim Koma brings Ladji to life with a grit and subtlety, walking the line of enjoying his new-found popularity and wealth but with a grounded realism that almost feels like he can see his own doomed future. He stands incongruously amongst other characters around him and throughout the film he never descends into an unlikeable character, which fosters a care that ultimately fuels the audience’s tension.

WULU works on many levels: part action film, part road movie, but is also an intensely interesting story of humanity at both its best and its worst.