From the outside, WAR WITCH looks like another story of survival in war-torn Africa. Komona, a young country girl, survives a raid on her village and is recruited into the rebel army. However, soon Komona is identified as a ‘War Witch’, because she has the ability to see the ghosts of fallen soldiers who warn her of impending doom. Prized by the leader of the rebels, she eventually runs away and the tale becomes one of love and survival, searching for redemption where none seems possible.
African mythology and fairytale qualities create a dark tenderness that runs throughout the film, amid the truly horrific surroundings. The film is able to capture intimate and even humorous moments. Despite this, there is also little respite from the heavy intensity of the picture. The two conflicting elements come together in an unsettling and surprisingly heartfelt story within a wild, lawless landscape of jungles and river-ways; beautifully shot, with superb performances.
…unsettling and surprisingly heartfelt story within a wild, lawless landscape of jungles and river-ways; beautifully shot, with superb performances.
The interesting, and perhaps vital, element of the film is that it is made by Canadian director Kim Nguyen, obviously at home in the West-African (but never named) country. The strength of the story and the incredible acting – for which lead actress Rachel Mwanza won the Silver Bear for Best Actress – holds the film naturally within its setting, without the sense of an outsider view. Both in subject matter and in production, the film draws on another foreign-made film within this subset of African cinema; the little known classic NELIO’S STORY, set in the civil war of Mozambique.
A truly remarkable film on many levels, showing in raw detail the destruction of war upon the human spirit.
- African Cinema and the London Film Festival by Mike Boyd (Editor-at-large)
- The 39 Steps by Rosy Hunt (Editor-in-Chief)
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