A short film is a difficult task – the director must provide all the punches one expects from a feature-length within a much shorter time span. Director Barnaby Blackburn accomplishes this brilliantly with his first ever piece: Wale (2018) – a film on race, redemption and the reality of the world we inhabit.
Opening the piece with a Chungking Express style montage of the streets at night, involving a prostitute lent up against a parked car, a youth cycling through a kebab store and even another charging through the streets with a pizza he’d snatched from a delivery man’s hands. This not only introduces the dog eat dog world our lead Wale (Raphel Famotibe) lives in but the reality we are also a part of, although we may be guilty of shielding our gaze from it all.
The story follows our hero, Wale, now deciding to take a new direction after being released from a young offenders institution, he’s dead set on becoming a self-employed mechanic. It’s hard for anybody to get work though Wale meets O’Brian, a man he believes to be his first client, though in actuality he’s the only thing in his way towards a clean life.
Blackburn utilises the musical score to inch the viewer towards a sort of paranoia, producing an expectation of trouble being just around the corner. This rings true as soon as Wale has brought O’Brian’s car to the garage and found something unexpected in the boot.
Raphel Famotibe’s performance although appearing fairly shallow, it’s at the pivotal point of the piece when the viewer is truly witness to his talent – that being the moment Wale is at breaking point and fleeing from, what he’s found to be, the crime scene. Tie that with Jamie Sives’s sinister performance of O’Brian and this piece has a perfect marriage of good and evil.
Blackburn’s cleverness is apparent in the way with which he plays with the viewers’ psyche, keeping an expectation of trouble alive, though making sure when it does arrive, it’s completely unpredictable. He’s created a short piece that’ll thrill its viewers and refuse all predictions, whilst keeping the focus intimately close on Wale; a black male with every intention to prevent his criminal past from repeating itself.
First impressions can leave a lasting effect and although this piece begins a little lacklustre, it certainly makes up for that in later stages of the story. Simply proving that Famotibe’s may not be ready to perform as the lead, he can certainly portray a man with his delicate future at stake. Wale is an entertaining and worthwhile watch for those that are fans of short yet unpredictable thrillers.
Dir: Barnaby Blackburn
Scr: Barnaby Blackburn
Prd: Sophie Alexander & Barnaby Blackburn
Cast: Raphel Famotibe & Jamie Sives
DOP: Robbie Bryant
Music: Luis Almau
Runtime: 20 min