Daouda Coulibaly, 2016, 95 min
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.
There will be a cocktail party sponsored by Jacob Restaurant & Intîme Boutique Wine after the screening of Wùlu and before the screening of Makala.
Emmanuel Gras, 2017, 96 min
Makala, a simple story of one man's labour told with an artistry that leaves an indelible impression. Filmmaker Emmanuel Gras won the grand prize at Cannes Critics' Week for his sensitive portrayal and exquisite camerawork.
The documentary begins at dawn in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as 28-year-old Kabwita Kasongo heads out with axes slung over his shoulder. He arrives at a majestic tree and begins the arduous process of chopping it down, one axe blow at a time. This is merely the first of several daunting tasks we witness Kasongo undertake in the process of making wood charcoal and delivering it to the marketplace.
The film patiently observes Kasongo as he works mostly alone and interacts with his wife, Lydie, and other townspeople. His minimal resources include a rickety bike that he piles precariously high with charcoal bags and pushes through dirt roads on a marathon journey. He dreams of earning enough money to buy a better roof for his family. While that cost would be modest in an industrialized country, for Kasongo it requires an enormous exertion to attain.
This event is done in partnership with the New York African Film Festival and with the support of UniFrance, Jacob Restaurant and Intîme Wines and is part of the monthly film series Uptown Flicks @ Maysles curated by Adeline Monzier and co-organized by Marie Gentine. Uptown Flicks features screenings of top recent French films and documentaries followed by a drink to mingle and share reactions!