“I Am Not a Witch” is a feature debut film by Welsh-Zambian filmmaker, Rungano Nyoni. The film tells the story of Shula an 8-year-old girl played by Maggie Mulubwa who is accused of witchcraft. Following an accident in her village, Shula undergoes a quick trial in which she is found guilty and kept in a camp for witches.
“I Am Not a Witch” screened at the Directors’ Fortnight sidebar of the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for a Camera d’Or award at Cannes. In 2017, Nyoni won “Best Director” at the British Independent Film Award in the same year the film won “Best Feature” at the African International Film Festival held in Nigeria. Additionaly, in February 2018, Nyoni won the BAFTA award for “Outstanding Debut by a British Writer”.
“I Am Not a Witch” has received praise for shining a much needed light on a widely overlooked issue that affects young women and girls across the African continent. To carry out research for the film, Nyoni reportedly visited a witch camp in Ghana. Though her research, She learned that there is nothing extraordinary about how witch camos function. They are similar to any odd village but are populated by older women who work on the land and engage in other daily activities. The inherent sexism behind the existence of these camps drove the director to make this film. Nyoni channelled her anger of the misogynist manner in which those that held these women spoke of them into making her comedic film.
A review of the film from Sundance reads, “Writer/director Rungano Nyongi’s deft directorial instincts unfurl this tale of interconnected vignettes in true mythological fashion, pointedly and with playful vigor. Gorgeously photographed and performed with resolute confidence, Nyongi’s astounding work layers satire and social critique into a richly textured and refreshing take on institutional subjugation, and the film resonates with earth-shattering power.”
Jessica Kiang wrote in her review for Variety, “Perhaps more beautiful and strange than wholly satisfying, it’s nonetheless easy to see why Rungano Nyoni’s debut film arrives in the Directors’ Fortnight sidebar of Cannes, trailing ribbons of new-discovery buzz. A defiantly uncategorizable mix of superstition, satire, and social anthropology, it tells the story of a small Zambian girl who is denounced as a witch and exiled to a witch camp, where she is alternately exploited and embraced.”
Following its critical acclaim and winning of international hearts and awards, “I Am Not a Witch” finally premiered in Zambia on 16 March 2018. Henry B J Phiri, a member of the cast expressed excitement at the movie finally coming home. He expressed that if given another chance he would play his role in the touching film all over again.
The movie that is local and uses a local cast will no doubt go on to win more accolades. The film will continue to put Zambian filmmaking and filmmakers on the map and hopefully open doors for those who wish to pursue a career in various aspects of film making.
**Features image– The voodoo “power object” market in Lomé, Togo | Dominik Schwarz : wikimedia commons**
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.
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