In competition for this year’s Oscars in the best foreign language film category is the movie War Witch.
The 12 year old lead of the movie, Rachel Mwanza, has already won two notable awards; a Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 62nd Berlinale and Best Actress at the 2012 Tribeca film festival. Financed by Canadian Studios Shen and Item 7 and shot entirely on location in DR Congo, the movie follows the girl through her struggles as a child soldier after being abducted by rebel soldiers.
From all the buzz generated by the movie I suspect writer/director Kim Nguyen has managed to tell a captivating story. One review even called it a genre defining movie. I didn’t know there was a whole genre devoted to War movies set in Africa.
Having said all of the above I must confess that I have beef with this movie; even though I haven’t watched it yet.
First of all no matter how brilliantly told this story is, I’m jaded by all those bad African War Movies I’ve seen in the past 10 years. That’s even when the Africans in the movie get center stage and not the usual baddy lurking in the background roles we get. Tears Of The Sun comes to mind.
I have lived my whole life in a peaceful country so I don’t relate so such stories especially when most have portray the entirety of Africa as a war-ravaged, AIDS infected, and famine-stricken continent.
Another problem I have with the movie is in the choice of not naming the country within which this story unfolds, even though we know it was shot in the DR Congo. I feel in making such a decision the writer is implying that such atrocities could happen in any country on the continent. Which would be a gross lie. Some countries for example are mostly deserts and so don’t even provide the cover of the jungle, Niger (no I didn’t misspell nigger) comes to mind, so jungle warfare would not be possible in this country.
Believe it or not us Africans are very complex but simple at the same time too. We laugh when we’re tickled, cry when we’re sad but also have lunatics, smile when we don’t mean you well and bleed red blood just like the rest of the world.
So why then are we not seeing more diverse stories being told by us and the people who make movies about us. I see that happening in Asia with Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul for example. This was not a kick boxing movie even though it was shot in Thailand.
So I ask myself again, where are our Silver Linings Playbook for example?; another movie up for an Oscar. Or our Blue Valentines Derek Cianfrance’s 2012 breakout movie?
I really hope I feel less bitter about this movie in particular since I feel it’s a bit unfair to pass any more harsh judgement on it without watching it first. So watch this space for my review.
The 2013 Oscar awards are scheduled for this coming Sunday February 24, 7pm EST