Directed by Kim Nguyen
Foreign Language Film (Canada)
2012 / 90 Minutes
Has MTV lowered the age requirement for their teenage pregnancy show yet? If Kim Nguyen’s War Witch were a true story (it claims to be loosely based on one), then it would make for a stellar season of 16 14 and Pregnant. War, guns, and ghosts oh my!
In an undisclosed region of Africa, we’re introduced to fourteen-year-old Komona. She’s pregnant and she’s explaining to the yet-to-be-born baby in her stomach all that she has endured during her short, traumatic time on the planet, in an effort to make it understand that she might not be overjoyed to meet the tiny human when it finally gets around to extricating itself from her womb. Her life up to this point in time has been anything but cupcakes and rainbows.
Her story begins at age twelve. How did she spend her first eleven years on the planet? We don’t know. We can choose to assume that she lived a happy, uneventful life up to that point. Or maybe she was a bit of brat. She may have even talked back to her parents rather frequently. We just don’t know. What we do know is that when she was twelve, rebels stormed her village, killed all the adults living there, and kidnapped ten children and turned them into soldiers. They actually forced Komona to gun down her own parents in cold blood. It was an act that would haunt her for the rest of her life roughly 730 days.
Stealing the children, the rebels teach them all how to care for a gun by giving them sticks and telling them to hold on to the pieces of wood as if they were their mothers and fathers. After a series of beatings, some eating of cookies, and a short round of firing practice, the new gang of unwilling recruits is finally deemed ready for action. They’re all quickly gunned down by government soldiers. All except Komona that is. She has the fortunate ability to be able to see ghosts. They warn her to run before the gunfire begins.
Word about Komona’s gift trickles back to the leader of the resistance and he summons her to a face-to-face meeting where he pronounces that she shall be his war witch. She has other plans however.
She escapes with an albino teen she calls Magicien and together the two of them search far and wide for the elusive white rooster. It’s exactly what it sounds like. A. White. Rooster. Once they find it they can be married. Once they are married they can be naked. Once they are naked we can only image what was inserted where.
The deed done, the happy couple then makes their way to Magicien’s uncle’s village and all appears to be well. That is until rebel soldiers show up and make trouble. They’ve come to take Komona back where she belongs and nothing will stand in their way.
A general ends up claiming the girl for his own. BIG mistake on his part, that’s all I’m saying, and the girl once again flees. She’s haunted by the ghosts of her dead parents who insist that she must return to the now destroyed village of her youth and bury them properly or her unborn baby will be cursed. She of course throws caution to the wind and obeys their command.
War Witch is an interesting film about the harsh realities of war and the toll that violence can take on young people who are ill equipped to deal with its deadly consequences. It paints a mostly realistic, gritty portrait of a country ravaged by war and the innocent children that are forced against their will to take part in awful gun battles, murders, and dismemberments.
It’s not for the faint of heart, yet at the same time there’s a sliver of unreality that slowly weaves its way to the forefront of the story thanks to the fantastical element of the ghosts that visit Komona on a regular basis. This distraction from reality, this need to add something “more” to an already nightmarish setting, ultimately detracts from any meaningful impact that the picture is attempting to have on its viewership.
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