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Reviews & Ratings for
War Witch More at IMDbPro »Rebelle (original title)

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43 out of 47 people found the following review useful:

A beautiful and unforgettable ride through hell

Author: Tania M from Canada
17 September 2012

I attended a screening of this film at the Toronto International Film Festival. The director was there and spoke of the tedious process of getting his film released. I am not sure when it will be open to the public but I hope it can come out in a not-so-distant future because it's definitely a must see.

Rebelle is not for everyone. It's hard to watch and may be too much for some. But what's so terrible about this film isn't what is shown. It's what isn't. The story is about a 14 year-old girl, telling her story to her unborn baby before giving birth. It spans the two years preceding the opening of the film, when the girl was abducted from her village by the rebel army and turned into a child soldier. As every step, something terrible happens. But somehow, leaving the theatre, you simply know that in real life, it may have been even more horrible.

I won't spoil anything but as you can imagine, as she lives with the rebel army, she is forced to do unspeakable things. She is somewhat protected by the leader as he believes her to be a witch. Throughout the film, she has visions of the ghosts of people killed by the rebel army, including her own parents. It doesn't seem unrealistic or made up. It makes the film just this more bearable to watch, as we're let into the mind of a child and her ways of coping with the events around her.

She befriends another kid believed to have special powers, a boy barely older than she is. As their relationship evolves, you find yourself within their own personal haven, their escape from the atrocities of the life they are forced to live. You understand why child soldiers do what they do, how a human being can be turned to commit inhumane crimes. From their adventure together, you will laugh at times and cry at others.

It's really hard to write about this film without giving away anything. All the emotions you will feel watching time come from the characters around the kids and the small things that happen to them that give them the strength to go on. The 'butcher' may be the best character in the film. His kindness to the children, his understanding of what they have been though and his acceptance of what they have become is incredibly touching.

It's a tough film. A beautiful film. A film that stays with you long after you've seen it. Most of the actors hired had never acted before but they are all fantastic. Rachel Mwanza in particular is unforgettable. I hope she goes on to have a brilliant career because she was fantastic.

If ever you have an opportunity to see Rebelle, take it. You won't regret it.

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15 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Sensitive realistic character study drama

Author: estebangonzalez10 from Ecuador
5 February 2013

¨We are rebels. Respect your guns. They're your new mother and father.¨

War Witch, also known as Rebelle, is a Canadian film directed by Kim Nguyen that has been nominated for this year's Academy Awards for best foreign picture. It is an enlightening film about the horrors that some children have to face in Africa when kidnapped by rebel forces. Nguyen, who also wrote the screenplay, did it in a very sensitive manner without relying on melodramatic or shocking moments. This is more of a sensitive drama focusing on a character study of a young girl's life when forced to kill her parents and join a rebel army. The harsh and violent reality of her life is softened by her innocence and supernatural mystic powers. The film combines these two elements in such a way that it makes the movie a much lighter and pleasant viewing experience. The addition of a sweet love story between her and one of the kids in the rebel army is what balances out the ultra realistic violence in her world with a touch of magical romantic moments, such as the search for the white rooster which gives the movie a much more lighter touch in midst of all the drama. The performance from Rachel Mwanza feels so real and authentic that it makes the film work as we see how this innocent girl's life changes as she becomes a woman in the midst of war. War Witch wouldn't have worked if it weren't for her unique portrayal of this character. This is a powerful film because there is no denying these things are happening in real life, and we need to put an end to this senseless brutality. Kim Nguyen does a great job with the direction of this film by adding some unique touches in the sound department, and the cinematography works really well.

The movie takes place in an undisclosed country in Africa where Komona (Rachel Mwanza), a young 14 year old pregnant girl, decides to tell her unborn child the story of her life. When she was 12, rebel forces raided her village and forced her and other children to murder their parents and join them. They were all given guns and prepared to fight for the Grand Tigre Royal (Mizinga Mwinga). She was the only child from her village to survive an early encounter against government army forces, after being warned by the ghosts of her parents to run. After this, she was considered to be a War Witch due to her mystical powers. She befriends another boy from the rebel army, who is also considered to have some sort of mystical powers and is known as the Magician (Serge Kanyinda). Together they decide to run away and hide at the Magician's uncle's home. He is known as the butcher (Ralph Prosper) and is very kind to the young kids who fall in love with each other. The Magician asks Komona to marry him, and she says that she can only marry him if he finds her a white rooster, which is extremely rare to find in that country. Despite the pleasant life she seems to be living, the ghosts still torment her, and after a brief moment of peace the rebels are back again to haunt her. Will Komona ever find peace in this senseless and brutal society she's living in?

War Witch is only about 90 minutes long, which was perfect because it could have gotten heavy handed if Nguyen had decided to expand the screenplay more. I really enjoyed that he decided to include this world of superstition in the midst of all the violence because it is a great part of the African culture which is left out sometimes. Despite the violent world in which Komona was introduced too, she also was able to find love although it was short lived. Nguyen found a perfect balance between this horrific world and the magical romantic one that Komona lived in. This will not win the Oscar, because Amour is a lock at this point, but it still is a unique film that is worth checking out if you 're into foreign films. I really enjoyed this film, although I wouldn't call it a masterpiece. It isn't groundbreaking, but is worth seeing for the story and performances alone.

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10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

War Makes A Child Grow Up Too Quickly and Brutally

Author: 3xHCCH from Quezon City, Philippines
16 January 2013

I learned about this film "War Witch" because it was nominated for the Oscar in Best Foreign Language Film. It is in French and was submitted by Canada. It is not an easy movie to watch. It chronicles two years in the life of a female child warrior in civil war-torn Africa.

Set in an unspecified African village and country, Komona is a 12 year old girl who was forcibly abducted by rebels to be a child warrior among many other children in her village. She had a unique talent of seeing spirits of the dead, which gave her the distinction of being a "War Witch" and thus a sacred member of their band of rebels. Despite this, she would still live a harrowing life of constant violence and anguish. This would be interrupted by an interlude of love, but sadly it would not last too long.

We hear the story in Komona's point of view so we can share in her very thoughts through her narrations. Young Rachel Mwanza bravely and compellingly played Komona. We literally see her face age from the first time we see her on screen to her final scene. We see a child forced to mature beyond her years in the most brutal ways possible. As you watch this, you will be thankful you do not lead Komona's tortured existence.

The direction, screenplay, cinematography and make-up of this film are outstanding. The depiction of the dead spirits Komona sees are very effective in its simplicity. This film succeeds to bring the heretofore unknown hell as experienced by children in war-ravaged Africa into the consciousness of the rest of the world. Are you ready to see this hell?

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10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

"Spiritual and tangible love-story..."

Author: Sindre Kaspersen from Norway
22 January 2013

Canadian screenwriter and director Kim Nguyen's third feature film which he wrote and co-produced, is inspired by stories of real life child soldiers. It premiered In competition at the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival in 2012, was screened in the Special Presentations section at the 37th Toronto International Film Festival in 2012, was shot on location in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is a Canadian production which was produced by producers Marie-Claude Poulin and Pierre Even. It tells the story about a twelve-year-old girl named Komona who is kidnapped from her African village by a group of lawless soldiers called the great tigers, recruited as one of their rebels and trained to become a participant in their war against the government. Komona is radically changed by the violence that invades her life, but her ability to survive amazes her commander and he names her "War Witch".

Subtly and engagingly directed by Canadian filmmaker Kim Nguyen, this finely paced fictional tale which is narrated by the main character and mostly from her point of view, draws an involving and heartrending portrayal of a 12-year-old girl's transition from an ordinary girl to a soldier equipped with a deadly weapon and her relationship with an elder boy named Magician. While notable for its naturalistic and atmospheric milieu depictions, sterling cinematography by Canadian cinematographer Nicolas Bolduc and use of sound, this character-driven, narrative-driven and humane drama about the loss of innocence, the psychological effects of war, survival and a fourteen-year-old girl's internal conversation with the child she is about to give birth to, depicts an incisive study of character.

This romantic, at times humorous and somewhat mysterious coming-of-age tale which was chosen as Canada's submission to the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 85th Academy Awards in 2013 and where brutality alters the mind of a person whom is forced into a life where death is lurking on every corner, is impelled and reinforced by its cogent narrative structure, substantial character development, reflective voice-over narration and the impressive acting performances by Congolese actress Rachel Mwanza and actor Serge Kanyinda in their debut feature film roles. A spiritual and tangible love-story about the eternal power of life which gained, among other awards, the Silver Bear for Best Actress Rachel Mwanza at the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival in 2012.

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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Definitely an applauding pick of Oscar board (Y)

Author: Nafis Shahriyar from Dhaka, Bangladesh
22 January 2013

During African civil war, Komona, a 14-year old African rural girl, gets abducted by some brutal rebellious chaps and bears unbearable woes, along with an unborn war child in her miserable fate. Kim Nguyen, in his path of direction, seems brilliant with the treatment of children psychology in that inhuman environment. He beautifully represents the war-witch, Komona's romance with the Magician who was also believed to have some spiritual ability just like her. The way how Komona is forced to be mature in the cruel world at her early days and her mental conflicts during her pregnancy would play with our sentiments and emotions a lot. A deep melancholy tone flows throughout the film with narratives. Definitely an applauding pick of Oscar board (Y)___

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Brutally Stark & Heart-Rending

Author: Larry Silverstein from United States
24 September 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Canadian filmmaker Kim Nguyen brings this brutally stark and heart-rendering drama to the screen.

Rachel Mwanza gives a magnificent performance as Komona, a young African girl kidnapped from her impoverished village, in an unnamed African country, and forcibly conscripted into a rebel military force fighting against the government. The movie details the horrors she subsequently faced from the ages of 12 to 14.

On her first mission as a child soldier, the ghosts of her parents appear to warn her of an impending ambush from government forces. The leader of the rebels, named the Grand Tiger, anoints her as his war witch due to her supernatural powers which can help them in combat. As a war witch, she receives a higher status within the rebel group.

Komona befriends a young soldier, named Magician, also superbly played by Serge Kanyinda. When Magician warns Komona that the Grand Tiger has killed the last three war witches, she agrees to run off with him and escape the rebel forces.

With their bond deepening, Magiciain asks Komona to marry him, but her father had told her that he must present to her a white rooster before any wedding can take place. This becomes an interesting and rather touching part of the story as Magician tries to find her the extremely rare fowl. Komona eventually marries Magician and becomes pregnant with his child.

I won't go into more plot details, as I'll leave them to the viewer. However, I will say that the rebels come looking for their war witch and that Komona must resort to increasingly desperate and brutal measures to try and save herself and her baby.

In summary, despite the film being difficult to watch at times with its' starkly depicted violent realism, I found it to be well worth hanging in there. The powerful performances, writing, and direction, made it a movie that stayed with me long after it was over.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

The Danger of the Single Story & the Beauty of War Witch

Author: Michelle ( from United States
27 December 2013

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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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Sad War Drama

Author: billcr12 from United States
11 January 2013

Rachel Mwanza is the war witch of the title, a twelve year old girl who is captured and turned into a child soldier by a violent rebel group fighting undefined government forces in an unnamed African country. Mwanza is quite good as Komona, a kid who has to grow up unnaturally fast. She becomes very proficient with an AK-47, and after surviving an ambush by the enemy, is given the name "war witch" by her leaders. She befriends a boy named the magician, and he looks like a young version of the former basketball player, Dennis Rodman, with platinum blond hair. The two fall in love and escape the rebel fighters, as the film shifts from a war drama to a love story for a brief time. Without giving away too much, there is no happy ending here, and ultimately the theme is just about survival at any cost. A ghost story aspect is part of the plot, a slight reminder of Toni Morrison's "Beloved", a similar mood is shared by the two movies. Rachel Mwanza makes "War Witch" worth it.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Gripping tale of life in a war-torn land

Author: Roland E. Zwick ( from United States
22 September 2013

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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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A Too-Short Look At Child Soldiers

Author: colinbarnard-1 from Oshawa, Ontario, Canada
25 March 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Kim Ngyen's "Rebelle" is everything that a Canadian film should be: a confident, non-American, distinctly Canadian look at the world around us. Ngyen's film succeeds in presenting vignettes of what a "war child" is presumed to go through: the indoctrination through brutalization, clinging to an immature version of humanity whilst expected to do very adult things, and ultimately trying to exit the soldier's life and find a life of normalcy.

The magnificent Rachel Mwanza is the absolute centre of the film, richly deserving her Canadian Film Award as best actress, delivering far more depth of performance through her expressive face than delivering any of Nguyen's dialogue. It is incredible that a young woman of 13 can portray all of the experiences her character undergoes, including the rigours of childbirth. I hope that she is allowed to appear in more films- a major world talent.

The film was made in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for a reputed $3.5 million. The actors are local, though the film never indicates what country it is set in (so as to better represent the African whole, I expect).

While not the film's fault, it is disheartening to see yet another film about Africa that presents the continent and its people as wholly dysfunctional. Yes, there are conflicts, bad governments, poverty, blood diamonds and child soldiers, BUT, there is also everyday life, beautiful cultures, and struggles of 'people just like us'...just trying to get by day to day.

Where the film falters, I think, is in trying to have, or at least imply, a happy ending for Mwanza's protagonist. After undergoing what she goes through, it is difficult to believe that she has the inner resilience to return to a normal 'teenage'life, let alone one of motherhood. PTSD has a way of rendering impossible functional relationships. Also, as noted in my review title, the film is much too short. I was reminded of Apocalypse Now in the themes that Nguyen deaves into, and I think REBELLE needed Apocalypse's length. Maybe we will eventually get 'Rebelle' REDUX.

Note to the Producers: the film is a Canadian film, not a product of the Nation of Quebec. So, do not put Quebec as the country of origin on the DVD case. You took Canadian tax dollars to make the film, and submitted it to the American Academy of Film Arts as the official Canadian entry. I am proud that Rebelle is a Canadian film, IN French, one of our two official languages.

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