Seattle, WA (The Hollywood Times) 1-1-19–*Contains spoilers
Writer/Director Barnaby Blackburn’s Wale tackles the issues of social injustice and racial discrimination. This award-winning psychological thriller has been selected for several Oscar and BAFTA qualifying film festivals since its completion earlier this year and took home the top prizes at BronzeLens and Dances with Films, qualifying the film for the 2019 Academy Awards and now Wale has been shortlisted for a 2019 Academy Award. The film stars newcomer Raphel Famotibe and Game of Thrones star James Sives.
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.
This is a story like all stories of young men, whether they are black, white, brown, green, orange, blue, color doesn’t matter. In this story, it most certainly does! Wale (pronounced Wa-lay), played by Raphel Famotibe, is a young 18-year-old black male who’s just gotten out of a youth institution. It’s been two months and he’s having to get up and doesn’t want to. Wale, however, is someone who meets up with his old criminal pals who tell him about iPads, iPhones, Tablets, Laptops and computers. They tell him that people don’t make legit money anymore and if they do, they’re always broke.
Wale heads to the local market in town. People are there pushing their wares, selling meats, fish, vegetables, fruit and the like. Wale is holding out a business card asking people if they need mobile auto work done. He comes to a man, James Sives (Game of Thrones) who listens to Wale’s patter. Wale is sincere in what he does, touting himself as a wonder-mechanic and how he learned what he did in Asbury, the institution where he was incarcerated for 18 months. What got me is that the man listened to him and told him to follow him.
Wale follows the man to his expensive beamer as the man asks him, “Do you hear that?” Wale doesn’t really hear anything as the man says it sounds like something’s rattling in the engine. Wale is invited to meet the man later, at his home. Once there the man hands him a beer and asks him to cut a lime. He does so and uses a large knife from the knife block. Wale sees pictures of the man’s wife. After a few minutes the man tosses the keys to his expensive beamer to Wale and tells him to fix the problem.
Wale is blown away by this and has a dream driving this car, when he arrived at the man’s home with a bike, back to the garage where he fixes the cars. He listens to the engine and hears nothing unusual. He feels and shakes the front wheel. Nothing unusual there either. He goes to the back and opens the boot. What happens next shocked the hell out of me and I immediately knew where this was going. The wife! Bloodied and wrapped in a sheet, full of blood.
He drives the car back to the man’s house where he confronts the man, slugging him in the face. The man laughs, the perfect murder. He explains the entire plan to Wale laughing all the more. Wale, a youth just trying to be normal after making a mistake just 20 months prior and serving time, now sees his entire life crashing before him. The man calls the cops and laughs and laughs and laughs.
Wale gets back in the car to dispose of the body in the river when… a cough…gurgling..gasping. She’s ALIVE! Wale rushes her to the hospital and now he must face whatever fate befalls him next. Do the cops believe him or the man who set this whole thing up? The one who will laugh last will be the one that tells the truth. You see, the truth shall set you free and, in this case, Wale, when he met this man at the market immediately told the truth about his criminal past. You decide. A criminal telling you the truth or the man who committed a murder trying to lay blame on an 18-year-old black youth just out of jail?
Barnaby Blackburn has done a great thing with putting social injustice and discrimination smackdab in our faces. What Barnaby shows us here in his film with Wale, is that discrimination is alive and well, EVERYWHERE, and that it’s never going to stop no matter what we do. Just like wars are always waged, discrimination and injustice will always be there to haunt our lives until the end of time, I fear.