Somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, in a small isolated village, Komona a twelve-year-old girl lived peaceably with her parents until the day the rebels arrived. They pillaged the village, captured Komona and forced her to commit an irreparable act: slay her parents. In the rebels’ camp, the training is merciless. Komona is hungry, scared and the rebel leader who has no pity for her tears beats her if she cries.
She learns to endure, fight and survive.
Her story as a child soldier conscripted to fight in a civil war is told through the movie “War Witch.”
A free screening of “War Witch” will at 7 p.m., Thursday, May 23 at Star Hall. The movie is made available through the Utah Film Circuit: Moab, an initiative of the Grand County Public Library and the Utah Film Center.
“War Witch” was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2013 Academy Awards.
“One of the great things about collaborating with the Utah Film Center is that we can screen world-class films that are still very new, not yet available on DVD,” said Jessie Magleby of the Grand County Public Library. “Because of the heavy subject matter we hesitated to select this one at first. But reviewers found that the film is actually quite delicate and beautiful, and never gratuitously violent, sensationalistic or melodramatic.”
Magleby referred to one reviewer who wrote: “Despite all the horrors she encounters, Komona proves to be a beacon of hope for a continent yearning for peace and humanity.”
Kim Nguyen, the writer and director of “War Witch”, was inspired by the story of Johnny and Luther Htoo, ten-year-old twins who had become sacred figures for rebel groups, whom they guided spiritually and strategically. The two led the God’s Army guerrilla group in Burma during the late 1990s.
“They were chain smokers, and legends said they had 250,000 invisible soldiers at their command. That was how I started my research on child soldiers and their imaginary world,” Nguyen said. “After several years, a screenplay was born; one that would attempt to pay homage to the real African heroes – men, women and children whose human resilience will always be able to overcome the tragedies of war.”
“War Witch” was shot entirely within the Democratic Republic of Congo in July 2011.
“Once in the Democratic Republic of Congo, we entered into a parallel world, a universe that is at the very boundary between real and surreal, in constant mutation, filled with extremely powerful paradoxes. even if our story isn’t specifically located in the Congo, the parallels between this country
and War Witch are omnipresent,” Nguyen said.
The decision to film in this country was also imposed by Rachel Mwanza, a girl from the streets who Nguyen discovered.
“She has a raw natural talent as an actress,” Nguyen said. “It was an exceptional encounter.”
Mwanza received the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the Berlin International Film Festival, as well as a special mention from the Ecumenical Jury.
Nguyen wanted this film to be different than his former films “Le Marais”, “Trufe” and “La Cite”.
“I wanted to shoot scenes as if there had never been a before; nor was there to be an after. As though only the present moment was real,” Nguyen said. “My actors were not allowed to read the screenplay before the shoot, and we shot the film in sequence. In this way, the actors never knew what was going to happen to their characters the next day.”
Magleby said that this is a dramatically powerful and beautifully crafted film that exposes “us to a different reality: An existence so foreign to us, in our lives of relative comfort in the United States, and yet connected in ways you might not suspect.”