Friday, September 7, 2018

Movie with Abe: I Am Not a Witch

I Am Not a Witch
Directed by Rungano Nyoni
Released September 7, 2018

There are many ways in which society has evolved over the centuries, with great modernizations since the Dark Ages that imply more than just a chronological development but one that has improved the way the world functions and treats people. In addition to recent events that have appeared to backtrack the progress that has been made, there are places in the world that still practice many things that would be deemed backwards or inhumane. Portraying an unbelievable truth in cinema often doesn’t require too much exaggeration since the mere fact that everyone doesn’t find it absurd and objectionable is hard enough to fathom.

Shula (Maggie Mulubwa) is an eight-year-old girl in Zambia who is seen as suspicious when she arrives in a village without any story and with nothing to say. Accused of being a witch, Shula is convicted and must adjust to her new life being attached to a long white ribbon, alternatively seen as a scourge upon her country and as a prophetic spirit able to judge the guilt of others and provide her own kind of service to the nation. This young girl must decide how to navigate an absurd fate and make the most of her potential.

It’s often difficult to separate what’s clearly expressed satire and what is something that might actually still occur in a nation, like Ghana, where sentences of witchcraft and by alleged witches are still handed out. Nothing in this slow, melancholy film presents itself outright as comedy, yet the insanity of it all and the power ultimately given to Shula for little reason other than that she barely speaks is entirely ridiculous. The depiction of a witch camp in which those accused are put on display for visitors is poignant, and offers an important representation of a real-life occurrence that seems too horrific to believe.

The feature film debut from Zambia-born director Rungano Nyoni won her a BAFTA Award and may contend as the Best Foreign Language Film submission for the United Kingdom at the upcoming Oscars. It tells a story that exposes those marginalized by their own communities for perceived differences, shining a light on injustices that are encouraged rather than forbidden by local laws and governmental enforcement. Breakout actress Mulubwa, who is from Zambia herself, delivers a strong debut turn far more mature than her young age would indicate, wise beyond her years and able to perceive much that the adults around her don’t. This film tells its story in an unrushed fashion, allowing it to play out without any manufactured urgency. The message here is its most powerful, exposing its audience to a problematic phenomenon that continues to exist in some places today.


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