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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 (email@example.com)
In the harrowing, Oscar-nominated Canadian drama "War Witch," a young African girl is conscripted into a band of armed rebels, ordered by them to kill her own parents, then forced, along with the other children in her village, to fight against the government forces they're opposing. Because she seemingly has some sort of psychic visions of where the enemy is hiding in the woods (it's actually hallucinations brought on by a psychotropic liquid she imbibes from some local plants), she earns the position of personal "witch" to the chief rebel himself - a position that brings with it special protection as well (at least up to a point). But that's only the beginning of Komona's ordeal as she hooks up with an albino "magician" (the excellent Serge Kanyinda) with whom she tries to flee the horrors of the world around them.
And it is those very horrors - the nonstop terror and violence, and the ever present prospect of sudden death - that writer/director Kim Nguyen captures to such powerful effect in this film. Despite its occasional forays into the surreal, what one takes away most from "War Witch" is its unflinching willingness to confront the brutal realities of life for Komona and the countless others who share her predicament. Then there are the occasional acts of random kindness that allow hope to flourish even in the most horrible of circumstances.
And all throughout her ordeal, Komona must find a way to bury, both literally and figuratively, the ghosts of the parents she killed.
Rachel Mwanza is utterly amazing as Komona, and she richly deserved all the praise and awards heaped on her for her performance. Whether it's her heartbreaking narration to her unborn child or the understated way in which she reacts to and internally processes the unspeakable atrocities she both witnesses and is forced to commit, Mwanza embodies a much larger tragedy within the narrower confines of a single character.
It may be hard to watch at times, but "War Witch" provides an invaluable reminder of what happens when we send our children off to war.
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