War Witch (‘Rebelle’)

DRAMA; 1hr 30min (French and Lingala with subtitles, English)

STARRING: Rachel Mwanza, Serge Kanyinda, Mizinga Mwinga

Ride easy: from left, Karim Bamaraki, Mwanza and Kanyinda

African village girl Komona (Mwanza, an untrained actress in a mighty, wide-ranging portrayal) is 12 years old when she is co-opted into the rebel soldiers of dissident leader Great Tiger (Mwinga) and ordered to shoot her parents as an on-the-spot initiation. In that moment, Komona’s past life is annihilated as well. “I had to learn to make the tears go inside my eyes,” she says softly in voice-over.


Spliced from reality and sinuously shot by cinematographer Nicolas Bolduc, War Witch, which her fellow soldiers believe visionary Komona to be, is an immersive experience that reveals rather than dictates. Denied their childhoods, the subversive underage killers exist in an out-of-time, primitive limbo. When Komona, now 13, and 15-year-old Magician (Kanyinda) break free and become self-proclaimed husband-and-wife, the spirit is lighter and more rosy, but writer-director Kim Nguyen isn’t interested in formulaic endings. His “homage to the real African heroes” deals as much with white-knuckle survival as it does with irretrievable loss.