Director Jean Luc Herbulot’s Senegal/Congo coproduction Saloum is an insane mind-blower. This genre mash-up is as fun as it is suspenseful and poignant.
Bangui’s Hyenas is a trio of mercenaries — Chaka (Yann Gael), Rafa (Roger Sallah) and Minuit (Mentor Ba) — on a mission to bring a cartel drug lord to Dakar, Senegal, with a load of gold on hand. When their plane encounters a problem, they are forced to land on the Saloum Delta. The four men seek shelter at a lodging camp run by a man named Omar (Bruno Henry), who Chaka claims to know, though Omar doesn’t recognize him. Minuit senses that Chaka is keeping a dangerous secret from the rest of the trio, and a mute woman guest named Awa (Evelyne Ily Juhen) complicates matters when she threatens to expose the men, who are going under aliases, to local police captain Souleymane (Ndiaga Mbow) unless they let her escape with them.
Herbulot, who cowrote the screenplay with Pamela Diop, packs a good amount of tension into the early and middle stages of this crime thriller story with western movie elements and a dash of humor — and then the supernatural horror kicks in. Some local spirits are restless and vengeful, and Saloum successfully delivers even more suspense, along with some chilling set pieces featuring cool-looking creature design that uses both people-in-suits and CGI effects. The cinematography, score, and editing are all a blast, and the cast is terrific.
Saloum is guaranteed to be one of the most surprising film discoveries you will encounter this year, and is destined to become a favorite on its current film festival run. Hopefully it will deservedly find a wide audience after that.
The first clip for Saloum, which is also scheduled for Fantastic Fest, can be seen here.
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