New film shows African conflict through eyes of girl

Fri Feb 17, 2012 11:26am EST
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By Mike Collett-White

BERLIN (Reuters) - Canadian director Kim Nguyen looks at the traumatic life of a child soldier in an unspecified African conflict through a young girl's eyes in "War Witch," a harrowing film that nonetheless carries with it an element of hope.

The movie has its world premiere at the Berlin film festival on Friday, and is the last of 18 competition entries to screen. The annual cinema event, also known as the Berlinale, closes with an awards ceremony on Saturday.

Nguyen, who has been thinking about and working on the project for 10 years, said he had been told by a friend to film only what he knew.

"Through the course of writing this script, I don't know why, but I could relate tremendously with this girl," he told reporters after a screening where the film was warmly applauded.

"It's more about trying to talk about what you can feel rather than what you know."

War Witch was filmed in Democratic Republic of Congo and used a mixture of trained actors from Canada and Congolese newcomers, including the young female star Rachel Mwanza.

She plays Komona, a 12-year-old girl whose peaceful life in a village is shattered when rebels arrive, kill most of her neighbors, force her to shoot her own parents and leave with a dozen or so child recruits.

After surviving a jungle skirmish with government forces, Komona is elevated to status of "witch," meaning she is treated with respect by the rebels but is also chosen to be rebel leader Great Tiger's concubine.   Continued...

Cast member Rachel Mwanza and director Kim Nguyen (L) attend the photocall to promote the movie "Rebelle" (War witch) at the 62nd Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 17, 2012.  REUTERS/Morris Mac Matzen