Movie Name: War Witch (Rebelle)
Studio: Item 7
Release Date(s): February 17, 2012 (Berlin Film Festival)/April 19, 2012 (US)
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Komona (Rachel Mwanza) is forced to kill her own parents and taken from her home by the Grand Tigre Royal (Mizinga Mwinga). Deemed a witch due to her uncanny knack of survival, Komona grows as part of the bloody revolution rocking her country. When she and another rebel named Magicien (Serge Kanyinda) decide to flee Grand Tigre’s control, Komona’s life takes a positive turn. The war however is long and hard and peace with her new husband and unborn child might not be possible since she belongs to the Grand Tigre.
Directed by Kim Nguyen, War Witch (or its original title Rebelle) was shot in and around the Democratic Republic of Congo of Africa. The film was liked by critics and nominated for Canada’s entry for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Picture.
War Witch is one of those movies that you watch and have to keep reminding yourself that there are aspects of truth to this story. Kids in that area of the world are kidnapped and forced to become killers…or voluntarily join the cause. What seems like a modern world to us really doesn’t feel all that modern here. The years in the story aren’t really specified, but it is implied that this is modern times.
Rachel Mwanza is a great find in this film. Without her believable portrayal of Komona, this film wouldn’t work. The path of her character is so rough. While kids here are just learning to drive at sixteen, she’s already been orphaned, become a killer, been married, been widowed, and had a child…by herself on the banks of a river. Mwanza makes it believable and I wish she had gotten a little more attention stateside for her performance (but it isn’t a shock since the movie wasn’t around much here).
The story is a coming of age tale, but a strange balance of narration (telling of past events) and then goes to a present day story. The tale doesn’t have much of an ending and I really wouldn’t mind revisiting the character in the next ten years or so to see where life goes for a character like Komona.
I recommend checking out War Witch or Rebelle. It is a strong film which is relatively short. It has some nice visuals and tells the story of people we try really hard to forget exist in modern times. A movie like The Hunger Games raised hell for portraying kids killing each other in a fictitious game…this is “real” situation and barely gets a murmur which is kind of a sad state.