Malian director Daouda Coulibaly’s auspicious debut is a pulse-pounding political thriller about a low-level transit worker turned drug trafficker, whose rapid ascent in Bamako’s criminal underworld entangles him with the military, the government, and eventually al-Qaeda.
Malian-French director Daouda Coulibaly's auspicious debut is a pulse-pounding political thriller. Wùlu tells the unsettling tale of a man's rise from the bottom rung of the social ladder to the heights of criminal power.
The quiet and unassuming Ladji (Ibrahim Koma) lives an impoverished life on the streets of Bamako, Mali's bustling capital. His work selling tickets for a bus company barely pays enough to cover rent for the meager shanty that Ladji and his sister Ami (Inna Modji) call home. When nepotism bars him from yet another promotion, his desperation turns to resolve, and he decides to apply his knowledge of the transportation industry to a new career — as a drug trafficker.
Ladji's expertise and street smarts enable his rapid ascent through Bamako's criminal hierarchy. But greater success means greater risks. Ladji and Ami's new, luxurious lifestyle only begets more debts, which propel him deeper into the underworld. He becomes bound up in sinister connections with Mali's military and its shadowy elite. And then the drug trade moves into Al-Qaeda territory, putting Ladji and everyone he knows in danger.
Set in the years leading up to Mali's 2012 coup d'état, Wùlu's story of ruthless ambition reaches far beyond the individual scope of a single character. Suspenseful and impeccably paced, Coulibaly's first feature marks him as a director to watch, a filmmaker equally skilled at crafting thrilling set pieces and at shining a critical light on systems of power.