Hope everyone is getting thru this winter ok. Happy Lunar New Year to everyone who is celebrating.
Recently I watched an incredible film I came across at the public library: I Am Not A Witch written and directed by Rungano Nyoni.
Here is a clip of the director speaking about the film’s creationhttps://youtu.be/LE8eUU7SkWo
Zambian Fairy Tale is a good description. Magical realism is a good descriptor. It’s not so much a ‘horror’ film in the classic sense. The horror of it comes from the lives of these women and the young girl and the exploitation they face.
In an article from the Guardian we learn,
“Nyoni further researched her script by visiting one of Ghana’s real-life “witch camps”, quasi-governmental settlements that are part-sanctuary, part-prison and part-tourist attraction. She lived alongside the women there and a version of the camp became a setting for the film, but Nyoni substituted the real details of camp life for more cinematic ones of her own invention. In the film, for instance, a giant bobbin of white ribbon is attached to the waist of the accused witches, including nine-year-old Shula, and wound in or out to control their movements. Equally visually striking are the film’s landscapes, great swathes of ash-grey, fire-fallow farmland, chosen, says Nyoni, “to reflect this idea of exploitation.”’
Not every story needs a villain and this one plays that out well by turning the trope of the “wicked witch” on its head. In this story Shula (played by Maggie Mulubwa) and the community of witches she enters are the protagonists. When I watch the film it’s interesting to think who/what the protagonists are up against however there’s isn’t a clear cut villain, there’s no evil mastermind causing a ruckus. This story is more complicated then that. I love that complexity. It blends and blurs the fairy tale/fantasy genre with real world experience where there isn’t typically just two sides to a story.
What I loved about watching it is that I disappeared into this story fully. I felt like I was entering this community of witches with Shula. Many of the camera angles put the viewer in the action rather then watching it like a voyeur. It was so visually beautiful, the plot and characters are engaging, and afterwards I can’t stop thinking about it. While the western world might be obsessed with Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey, this doesn’t follow that same story model. It’s not not a well rounded happy conclusion, yet it’s not particularly conclusive in the way western stories often are. Instead this is a film that can be enjoyed by film lovers from around the world. I think Dir. Nyoni adds to the story’s complexity by not forcing the plot into a western storytelling conscript without completing throwing it out either. She does an incredible job allowing the people in the story to tell the story which adds to its magical realism.
Also from the Guardian article, “When Nyoni was Maggie’s age, her family had just moved from Lusaka to the Riverside area of Cardiff. Due to visa issues, she didn’t return to her country of birth until she was 15, and so is as much Welsh as she is Zambian. She says her perspective as a film-maker has inevitably been informed by her semi-foreigner status: “You’re always watching things from outside, you’re not quite in.” Although, actually, she says, these two countries, over 7,000 miles apart, have more in common than you might think. “Very, very similar in terms of being super laidback and what you see is what you get. There is no pretence, there’s no trying to figure out what someone is telling you”
There’s no explicit language or imagery so don’t worry about trigger warnings in that sense, there aren’t any jump scares that’ll stop your heart. I do recommend watching this without watching to many clips or trailers because it’s fun to go in not knowing what you’ll see, it adds to its mysterious elements. However, I know for many of you the idea of going into this film blind is too scary so if I can get them to upload I’ll post some clips I’ve been thinking about when I can.