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Saloum Review – A Blend Of Genres And Folklore | Fantastic Fest

Fresh off its debut at the Toronto Film Festival, Saloum made its way to its United States premiere at Fantastic Fest. Saloum is a supernatural thriller from the mind of writer and director, Jean Luc Herbulot. What makes this film stand out is its ability to shift and blend genres together. What at heart feels like an African-Caribbean version of a classic western, at times shifts to a supernatural-horror film, with a sprinkle of a classic action film. I will say that overall Herbulot does a great job at fusing all these genres together to make a very interesting and entertaining film.


In Saloum, we follow a group of mercenaries known as the Bangui Hyenas. The team is made up of Chaka, played by Yann Gael, their leader. Rafa, played by Roger Sallah, who is the muscle, and Minuit, played by Mentor Ba, who is older and wiser. They have been hired by a Mexican drug lord, played by Renaud Farah, to help him escape Guinea-Bissau with his gold. The plan is to bring him to the city of Dakar in Senegal. But they are forced to land in the remote Saloum Delta region after they discover a hole in their plane’s gas tank.


They are forced to a vacation retreat in the area that is run by a man named Omar, played by Bruno Henry. The conditions for them to stay at the camp is that they must do chores for the resort. Their presence is threatened by two characters. One is another guest named Awa, played by Evelyne Ily Juhen that can’t hear or talk. She threatens to expose who they are unless they take her with them. The other is a police chief, played by Ndiaga Mbow, that shows up and could discover who they are. There is also something dark and supernatural afoot that seems to weigh down the area.


This sets up a series of events that to talk about would really ruin the film for audiences. Like I had mentioned above the variety of genres that are showcased here are weaved together very well. With these elements, you’d think that it would be slow or choppy, but it actually moves at a quick pace. Next thing you know you have gotten to a point where everything just falls into place. But the acting and visuals of the film are good enough for audiences to shrug their shoulders and enjoy the rest of the ride.

Where I feel this film falls a bit short is in its character development. I don’t feel that for example, we learned enough of Chaka’s past to validate his actions. Some of the character’s decisions just seem convenient rather than natural choices. I don’t find myself necessarily invested in anyone in particular except Awa. Who we slowly learn more and more about as she interacts with several of the characters in Saloum.

My other issue is the supernatural elements. They are showcased as very mysterious elements. Only to become prominent and in your face near the end of the film. While they were done well, they feel disconnected from where the film was headed. Only unleashed due to convenient choices.


Overall Thoughts

Overall I enjoyed Saloum. As a fan of westerns so to see this different cultural spin on the genre was fun. I will say the film did leave me wishing I could have seen more of the Bangui Hyenas’ adventures because of the actor’s great chemistry together. I look forward to seeing what future project Herbulot has in store for us.

Overall Grade: B

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