By Gael Masengi, Saturday 12 January 2013
On Thursday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) announced the list of Oscar nominees in Los Angeles and guess what... an unknown “Made in Congo” film made the short list in line to win the Best Foreign Language Foreign category comes February 24th.
Written and directed by the Canadian Kim Nguyen, “War Witch” or Rebelle (as better known by its original French title) tells the story of Komona (portrayed by Rachel Mwanza), a young girl whose life is anything but normal. Kidnapped by African rebels at the age of 12, Komona was forced at gunpoint to slaughter her own parents and fight as a child soldier against the government in the jungles. But Komona was no ordinary soldier. Due to her ability to see gray ghosts in the trees that warn her of approaching enemies, she was deemed a sorceress and bestowed the title of War Witch by the supreme leader of the rebels, Great Tiger. War Witch exudes visceral energy and emotional power as Komona’s journey ultimately finds her in love with a fellow child soldier named Magician (Serge Kanyinda), but pregnant with another man’s child. Saddled with the reality that a life of normalcy is forever beyond her grasp, Komona must find a way to resolve the actions of her past.
While no existing country or city is mentioned in the movie, viewers however can clearly identify the plot with the on-going situation of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where the film was primarily shot in Lingala (widely spoken language of the DRC) and French with a cast of mainly Congolese actors and actresses. With a notable recent success of another made-in-DRC film, namely Viva Riva (best director, best supporting actor and actress, best cinematography and best production design at the African Academy Awards) and first time actors such as Pasha “Bay” Mukuna and Rachel Mwanza gaining world-wide recognition for their unforgettable stellar performances, it is safe to say that the DRC is also one of Africa’s pool of talented actors and actresses but as you all will agree with me, the country’s economic situation or total unwillingness by a corrupted government to invest in developing the motion arts industry makes it difficult to discover such gifted individuals shouldn’t be for foreign investment.
War Witch or Rebelle did already enjoy major success at last year’s mainstream film festivals around the world, winning best actress at the Tribeca and a Silver Bear in the same category at the Berlin Film Festival for the Congolese rising teen star, Rachel Mwanza. The film is Canada’s entry to the Oscars and will not in any way represent the Democratic Republic of Congo as many might think, it is up against Austria’s “Amour”, Chile’s “No”, Denmark’s “A Royal Affair” and Norway’s “Kon-Tiki” leaving out the much anticipated France’s “The Intouchables”.
Amongst the remarkable big-timers at this year’s prestigious awards is The Life of Pi, a sci-fi blockbuster which comes second with eleven nominations after the American drama Lincoln scoring in twelve categories (which include best picture, best director, best actor for Daniel Day Lewis, and film editing). Directed by Steven Spielberg, the movie focusses on the last four months leading to Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Winners of the 85th Academy Awards will be announced on February 24th at the Los Angeles’ Dolby Theatre, Seth MacFarlane, the creator of hit-comedy animation Family Guy is lined up to host the ceremony.
War Witch synopsis by Tribeca