30th Philadelphia Film Festival: ‘Saloum’ Reviewed

by Rachel Bellwoar


Directed and Screenplay by Jean Luc Herbulot
Story by Jean Luc Herbulot and Pamela Diop

There’s nothing pleasant about being dropped into the middle of a coup. People lying dead all around. Three guys who could be responsible for the bloodshed or just the first ones on the scene, prowling about. As disorienting as this sequence is, early on in Saloum, there’s a moment when discomfort turns into curiosity, and that’s when Minuit (Mentor Ba), whose name hasn’t been mentioned yet, blows dust into a soldier’s face – knocking him out or killing him, but leaving a calling card all the same.

Is it magic? Science? Saloum never tells, but it’s certainly not a fluke. Herbulot’s movie is a total genre mix-up. There’s action for fans of TV shows like Strike Back. Mythology for folks who aren’t put off by fantasy elements.

The mission starts out straightforward enough – extract a Mexican drug trafficker (Renaud Farah) from Guinea-Bissau and escort him to Dakar – but never stops evolving and the result is as unpredictable as it is wild.

Malick Mbengue is credited for the wardrobe and costume design and so much of who these three guys are – who are collectively called Bangui’s Hyenas – can be extracted from the jewelry they’re wearing – or the footwear they have on! Minuit is barefoot and the one most in tune with nature. Chaka (Yann Gael) has on boots and is the man with the plan. Rafa (Roger Sallah) wears Versace and is the most outspoken. Together this charismatic trio are up for anything, which is good, because the script throws a lot at them, but seeing all the details come together couldn’t be more satisfying. Everything is intentional in Saloum. There are no accidents.

The 30th Philadelphia Film Festival runs from October 20th to October 31st. Click here for the full program.

%d bloggers like this: