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Komona, a girl in Sub-Saharan Africa, tells the story to her unborn child about her kidnapping by rebels and forced to join their bloody civil war. When she discovers a valuable intuition about the presence of the enemy, she is elevated as a witch and favored by the rebel leader. However, this special status threatens to be short-lived in this world of superstition and senseless brutality even as the ghosts of the war dead haunt her visions. However, when a newfound friend convinces her to desert, Komona finds escaping that brutal life is far from easy with its physical and spiritual consequences following her wherever she goes. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Danger of the Single Story & the Beauty of War Witch
When we think of African countries, many Westerners think of countries in the midst of bloody civil wars involving child soldiers, senseless violence, AIDs, etc. Our impression of African countries is one that we've learned from movies like Blood Diamond and from images presented by charities and documentaries with major press coverage like Invisible Children and the Kony 2012 campaign. The unintended consequence of these shocking images, presented for the heartfelt purpose of raising awareness, is this: the single story. We have a few images serving as one generic story representing an entire continent of countries and cultures.
The complexities, variations, and even just the common middle-class, everyday lives that exist in African countries are reduced to this single story: of starving, war-torn people waiting for the rest of the world to save them by donating a few dollars, or by buying a "buy one give one" pair of Toms shoes.
War Witch embodies the single story that many Westerners think of the "country of Africa" because we simply meld all African countries together into one homogeneous war-torn state. In fact, War Witch doesn't even differentiate which country or war the story represents. The setting is simply "Africa." The Beauty of War Witch As I watched the first few scenes of the film, the tragedy of the child soldier story quickly become apparent as the movie's story. I was initially disappointed as it is a story with which I'm already familiar. Luckily, the beauty of this film's simplicity also became apparent. Without much dialogue, we as an audience were able to suspend our disbelief and appreciate the supernatural aspects of the story as a child's attempt to cope with the tragedies she faces. We watch as she deals with death, separation, and heartbreak while she is haunted by ghosts of her parents. The ghosts aren't cheesy nor are they scary, they are simply haunting reminders that the soul of the main character is not at rest.
While the child conveys strength through each atrocity she faces, we as an audience are reminded by the white ghosts that she is not at ease. Title slides appear at different moments throughout the film and denote our young protagonist's ages throughout the film: 12, 13 and 14 years old. Displaying her age, rather than a date and time, reminds us of the innocence robbed as we travel with the main character through her struggles as she "forces tears back into her eyes." Were it not for these displays of her age, we would forget that the strength shown by the young woman is actually shown by a child. Nguyen excels at reminding the audience of this, in portraying the child's coping mechanisms through supernatural visions, and at having us witness tragedy without astoundingly gory scenes that, while they may be more accurate, would distract from our journey with the child.
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