By Traci Mark
So the first post. We only thought it only appropriate to review the film War Witch, or under the French title Rebelle (clever huh? We thought so.) Alright, on with it.
War Witch (Kim Nguyen, 2012) tells the story of fourteen year old Komona (Rachel Mwanza) who is kidnapped by the rebel army in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She is forced to join the rebel army and trained to kill indiscriminately, starting with her own parents. With Komona narrating her own story (initially at the age of 12), we follow her on a journey for the next two years. After being given sap with hallucinogenic properties, Komona begins seeing spirits of the dead that warn her of approaching enemies. She is given the title of “War Witch” and is kept by the side of the chief commander of the army. This keeps her safe for a short while until she escapes the camp with her only friend, an albino boy called Magicien (Serge Kayinda) .The middle portion of the film gives a sense of euphoria and lightness when the two fall in love. Montrealer Kim Nguyen highlights this with African pop music and shots of the two together. After a brief period of happiness Komona learns in a very brutal way that all good things must come to an end.
The film does not shy away from showing the atrocities of war from the point of view of a young girl. War Witch does not ask you to sympathize with the characters and their situations, but instead, understand and be privy to the bleak conditions that most of us might never have first-hand experience of.
It’s not all dismal though. Nguyen balances the film well, with an ending that will leave audiences somewhat hopeful. A perfect example of transnational cinema, War Witch joins the list of films that do not necessarily contain “Canadian” content but instead clearly feel at ease depicting stories about people across the globe (Deepha Mehta’s elements trilogy, Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies (2007) just to name a few…). This, I think, is one of the most positive things coming out of Canadian cinema and a wonderful addition to the variety of films being produced here.