• Maysa Monção

I am not a witch

I Am Not A Witch

October 20, 2017

I Am Not A Witch is the debut feature by Rungano Nyoni, a filmmaker born in Zambia with an academic background in Birmingham and London. The film was developed while she was supported by Cinéfondation, a laboratory in Cannes -- read more about it here. Nyoni is very pleased to have had this opportunity: “What is formidable with the Cinéfondation is that it is totally free: the director has no obligation to build a scenario. We have space and time to dedicate to our project, which is a great luxury in itself. Cannes Film Festival is often associated with glamor. In reality, from the first steps, we receive support to promote the creation.”

What starts well goes well. I Am Not A Witch is a deep vision into African colonialism, its roots and its mistakes. As the title suggests, it is about identity, but most importantly, it is about the denial of an identity Africans don’t want to be associated with anymore. In a nutshell, a witch is someone who doesn’t conform to the rules. This is all the colonialists never wanted to happen.

The film is not a period drama, though. It shows a contemporary reality. After a banal accident in her village, Shula, an eight-year-old girl, is accused of witchcraft. After a quick trial, she is found guilty and locked up in a witches’ camp.  Witch camps exist in Zambia and in Africa in general. Believing in the existence of witches is omnipresent and manifested in many aspects.

How Nyoni portrays those women is the most sensitive aspect of the film. She didn’t make a realistic film. I Am Not A Witch is a fable, and being so it resonates with the best and most known Brazilian filmmakers of all times, Glauber Rocha. In The Lion Has Seven Heads (Originally Der Leone Has Sept Cabeças, Rocha, 1970), Rocha subverts the linguistic positioning of the spectator by mingling the languages of five Africans colonisers in the original title. He focuses on the linguistic aspect of oppression. Nyoni as well stages this linguistic oppression when the girl’s tutor takes her to a TV show and the girl refuses to speak.

I Am Not A Witch is the type of thought-provoking movie that makes you wonder what sort of world you live in. A world that consistently disrespects women, children and black people.

The film is out Friday October 20.

#BFIFilmFestival 2017

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