Susan Omand ventures onto the mean streets and watches the short film Wale by Barnaby Blackburn...
Wale is the story of an 18-year-old mobile mechanic, who learned his trade whilst serving time in Aylesbury, the young offender's institution. Now he’s out, living with his mum and trying to get his business going. But enterprise isn’t easy when you’re a young black male, with a criminal past.
Can a film be clever if it is predictable? This story is both, but that worked quite well for me since I guessed the main storyline at the first meeting of the main characters, young mechanic Wale (pronounced Wah-lay) and O’Brian, a man he meets in the market while looking for work, so I enjoyed watching the set-up to the sting, the jigsaw pieces being formed for someone to put together, without being distracted by the unexpected. It did, however, leave me with an unresolved question around that initial meeting – namely was this all planned by O’Brian beforehand and he was just looking for a suitable patsy from the market to carry out his scheme or was it a crime of opportunity that sprang to mind as the two chatted in the market and Wale tells O’Brian about his past? I guess both options work, and neither motive nor MO is intrinsic to the plot, but it would have been good to have known.
Any failing in the story is more than made up for with the cast. I really like Jamie Sives as an actor. He has one of these faces that you recognise from “being in things” – with roles in the likes of Game of Thrones, Waking the Dead and Silent Witness he has been on our screens in some way for quite a number of years and his wealth experience stood him in good stead for his highly polished performance as O’Brian. He is very convincing as both the open, friendly, smooth talking customer that young mechanic Wale approaches in the market to tout for business and as the controlling, conniving, over-confident puppetmaster who deceives Wale into doing exactly what he wants. But it is Wale himself, Raphel Famotibe, who is a name to look out for in the future. His physical and emotional acting, from his posture and demeanour to his face and eyes, as you watch one reaction after another hit hard as realisation of his fate dawns, is really quite magnificent.
But there’s one more star to this short film that I have to mention, one that you won’t see on the screen, and that’s Luis Almau, the soundtrack composer. The music fits the film incredibly well, adding depth and richness to every scene, magnifying and supporting rather than overwhelming the action and perfectly balancing and complementing Blackburn’s tight and creative directing style. That climactic scene near the end as Wale bursts shouting through the hospital doors, filmed in slow motion and with the dialogue track silenced, leaving just the wonderful music, is utterly sublime. Talking of which, I had to do some investigation because I found it quite difficult to believe that this was actually Blackburn’s directorial debut, such is his talent behind the camera. And, yes, this is his first shot at film direction, but it turns out he has done quite a bit of camera work before, cutting his teeth in the world of commercials and promo videos, where the vision has to sell the product and, for me, that explains his artistic eye.
So, all round, a very enjoyable, if predictable, short film, with great looking cinematography, amazing soundtracking and a very strong cast of characters. It’s definitely worth a watch if you get the chance.
Image - Barnaby Blackburn