Saturday, 8 October 2016


Wulu translates as 'the level of the dog,' the fifth and final stage in the training of young Bambara men. Alas, a dog deserves better than Daouda Coulibaly's earnest, noble first feature, one blighted by an aspiration toward only adequacy in style. The film feels depressed, enlivened by scarce shocks that undoubtedly engage the viewer, only to slump back into an unmemorable rehash of genre conventions soon after. As an illuminating picture upon a national, indeed international cultural crisis, Wulu is precise, succinct, and wholly well-intentioned. Coulibaly truly understands his subject, the strains of which are exerted onto a variety of characters in a variety of ways, but with one imperative: the relentless thirst for wealth. It's a desperate drive that has bastardized the traditions of old, shaping them into self-serving tools of commercial advantage. These are bountiful themes, yet Coulibaly's presentation of them is fleeting in its incision, more permanent in its lack of focus. Local fables are told, the contrast between urbanity and rurality is touched upon - more briefly brushed past - and obvious, unambiguous connections are drawn between the violent, hopeless existences of the characters and the animals they slaughter, or speak of in far more reverent terms. None of this is especially original, neither in concept nor in creation, though these are the kinds of authentic artistic character of which Wulu is otherwise in persistently short supply. In hoping, if not trying, to forge an identity as a classic crime thriller for West Africa, yet failing to appreciate the details of the process of forging a classic, Wulu boasts fine intentions, but fine intentions alone.