Once again a Québécois film has been nominated for a best foreign-language Oscar. In 2011, it was Denis Villenuve’s Incendies and in 2012 it was Philippe Falardeau’s Monsieur Lazhar. This year, the honour goes to Kim Nguyen’s Rebelle (War Witch is the English title).
In War Witch, a 12-year-old girl named Komona (Rachel Mwanza) is kidnapped by rebels in an un-named African country and forced to become a child soldier. But she soon discovers that she has magical powers – she can see ghosts in the jungle and knows when government forces lie in wait. War Witch covers two years of Komona’s life told in flashback and voiceover, an odyssey that veers into slaughter, witchcraft and magical realism. It’s a harrowing story told with a great deal of humanity and strikingly authentic performances, especially by Mwanza, an untrained street kid who was found on location in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. In addition to the film’s Oscar nod, Mwanza won the Silver Bear for best actress at the Berlin International Film Festival and best actress at the Tribeca Film Festival. War Witch received 12 newly minted Canadian Screen Awards nominations (formerly the Genies), including best picture, best director, best screenplay and best actress for Mwanza.