Saturday, March 23, 2013

"War Witch": a teenage girl tells her harrowing story of life among brutal Congo rebels

War Witch” (“Rebelle”), a French-Canadian film directed by Kim Nguyen, and nominated for best foreign-language film (French and native African) is tough to watch.
Komona (Rachel Mwanza) is talking to her unborn baby somewhere in the Congo as the film starts, warning him that when he comes out of her belly, she may not be able to love him the way a mother should.  We’ll find out at the end if she does. 
We then watch her story, of her being kidnapped at the age of 12, and forced to become a rebel fighter in the Congo. She is elevated to a “witch” because of her intuition about the enemy. The film shows this which ghostly characters made to look albino and static.  She meets an albino native who wants to marry her.  She makes him prove his manhood by finding a white rooster in the village.  The marriage results in the baby, but is short lived as she is taken back.
The brutality of the film is horrific – she is made to do unthinkable things, even as a child.  So she gets some revenge with, shall we say, an “implant” – something American soldiers found Vietnamese women did during the Vietnam war.

The film also shows living conditions in sub-Saharan Africa as absolutely gruesome.  I could not have survived this. 
The look of the film (and the culture) reminds one of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” (July 9. 2012 here).
The official site is here.  The theatrical distribution in the US is being handled by Tribeca film (from the 2012 festival, which I attended but I did not see this film there).

I saw the film Saturday afternoon before a sold-out crowd in a small auditorium at the West End Cinema in Washington DC. 

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