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War Witch

War Witch

Director: Kim Nguyen, Rachel Mwanza, Alain Bastien, Serge Kanyinda

Cast: Kim Nguyen, Rachel Mwanza, Alain Bastien, Serge Kanyinda

Writer/director Kim Nguyen highlights the tragic plight of child soldiers in sub-Saharan Africa with this tale of a pregnant 14-year-old girl who recalls being forced to kill her own parents and join the rebel army. Komona (Rachel Mwanza) is just 12 when the rebels ransack her village and order her to slay her


Writer/director Kim Nguyen highlights the tragic plight of child soldiers in sub-Saharan Africa with this tale of a pregnant 14-year-old girl who recalls being forced to kill her own parents and join the rebel army. Komona (Rachel Mwanza) is just 12 when the rebels ransack her village and order her to slay her parents. Subsequently taken to their camp and given an AK-47, Komona is beaten mercilessly by the rebel leader for showing weakness, but she later becomes the supreme leader's war witch after emerging as the sole survivor in a bloody battle against the government army. Amidst all of this darkness, the one light in Komona's life is Magician (Serge Kanyinda), a 15-year-old boy who shows her compassion in a world of cruelty. For a brief moment, it appears as if Komona and Magician have escaped the war, but their greatest battle has yet to be fought. Later, pregnant and haunted by the ghosts of her parents, Komona embarks on a trip back to her birthplace to make amends with her past and ensure that her unborn child has a chance to live a life free from the sins of the mother.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Nathan Southern
Quebecois director Kim Nguyen's drama War Witch transpires in an unspecified African country, where Komona (Rachel Mwanza), a pregnant 12-year-old girl, endures unspeakable atrocities during a period of intense political unrest. Psychotic rebels invade her village and force the girl to gun down her loving parents in cold blood. That marks her "initiation" into a vile cult of child soldiers and rips her innocence away irrevocably. Yet the picture takes an unusual, unpredictable turn when Komona inadvertently saves her superiors and comrades from death by predicting the enemy's movements. Her "leader," known as "Great Tiger", brands her as a shaman and begins using her systematically to ensure the success of the rebel military unit. In the process, we see a young girl whose spirit is being ripped to shreds -- and realize that a sad, broken life is inevitable for this character. This may all sound harrowing, perhaps even unbearable. The most curious aspect of the picture, however, is Nguyen's deliberate resistance to anything heavy-handed. Despite devastating, gruesome subject matter, Nguyen dramatically underplays much of the film; many of the scenes feel reserved, matter-of-fact, and often shockingly low-key. Komona's forced butchery of her mom and dad is perhaps the strongest example: We see neither the gun being fired nor the bodies being hit, but merely a close-up of a traumatized, grief-stricken Komona as she undertakes the action. This sort of subdued approach to the picture may strike one as surprising, yet it was a wise choice. For one thing, the lack of melodramatic contrivance makes the film more memorable and credible; a less-conscientious director would have overdosed on horror and diluted the movie's persuasive impact. Moreover, the picture is far and away most effective in its sequences of quiet lyricism, as in a subplot that has Komona and a teenage boy nicknamed the Magician (Serge Kanyinda) finding themselves drawn to one another. The relationship is a poignant one, for we realize that war is both the catalyst for their blossoming romance and will likely be the force that undoes it by separating these two. Nguyen also evinces maturity via the sequences that involve Komona's shamanistic visions. His decision to play those spiritual experiences straight, by depicting the visions themselves onscreen in lieu of treating them as psychotic delusions or village myths, connotes an unusual degree of respect for (and empathy with) Third World cultures, as well as a considerable amount of wisdom. If the picture has a central flaw, it is merely tied to a lack of narrative momentum that starts to set in during its final 35 minutes or so. One feels the story beginning to slow to a crawl, and can't help but sense that more judicious editing might have been advisable. Having said that, though, this is still an excellent movie that does almost complete dramatic justice to its subject matter.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
New Video Group
[Wide Screen, Color]
[Dolby Digital Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Story behind the scene; Academy award promo

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Rachel Mwanza Komona
Alain Bastien Rebel Lieutenant
Serge Kanyinda Magician
Ralph Prosper The Butcher
Mizinga Mwinga Great Tiger
Jean Kabuya School Camp Coach
Jupiter Bokondji Great Tiger's Sorcerer
Starlette Mathata Komona's Mother
Alex Herabo Komona's Father
Dole Malalou Coltan Dealer
Karim Bamaraki Biker
Sephora Francoise Butcher's Mother
Jonathan Kombe Kind Policeman
Marie Dilou Exorcist
Gauna Gau Brawny Albino
Renate Wembo Clinic Nurse
Alexi Sabwe Worrying Man in Clinic
Nicolas Fransolet NGO Man
Kazadi Zadio Strong Man
Bonaventure Kabama Laughing Farmer
Angele Okito Laughing Farmer's Wife
Agnes Mujinga Old Woman in Truck
Moise Ilunga Hearse Driver
Jordan N'Tunga Jordan
Diplome Amekindra Great Tiger's Guard
Papa Michel Kid Soldier School

Technical Credits
Kim Nguyen Director,Co-producer,Screenwriter
Nicolas Bolduc Cinematographer
Richard Comeau Editor
Pierre Even Producer
Emmanuel Frechette Art Director,Cinematographer,Production Designer
Anne-Marie Gelinas Associate Producer
Claude La Haye Sound/Sound Designer
Pierre Magny Asst. Director
Josa Maule Casting
Martin Pinsonnault Sound/Sound Designer
Eric Poirier Costumes/Costume Designer,Production Designer
Marie-Claude Poulin Producer
Kiripi Katembo Siku Casting
Bernard Gariepy Strobl Sound Mixer,Sound/Sound Designer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- War Witch
1. Taken [8:51]
2. Initiation [8:35]
3. Ghosts [6:38]
4. Witch [7:53]
5. Desertion [8:27]
6. Magician [7:38]
7. White Rooster [5:22]
8. A Better Life [6:27]
9. Poison Rose [8:22]
10. The Butcher's House [6:55]
11. Homecoming [7:51]
12. On The Road [7:20]

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