Shula, 9 ans, est accusée de sorcellerie par les habitants de son village et envoyée dans un camp de sorcières. Entourée de femmes bienveillantes, condamnées comme elle par la superstition des hommes, la fillette se croit frappée d’un sortilège : si elle s’enfuit, elle sera maudite et se transformera en chèvre... Mais la petite Shula préfèrera-t-elle vivre prisonnière comme une sorcière ou libre comme une chèvre ? // Following a banal incident in her local village, 8-year old girl Shula is accused of witchcraft. After a short trial she is found guilty, taken into state custody and exiled to a witch camp in the middle of a desert. At the camp she takes part in an initiation ceremony where she is shown the rules surrounding her new life as a witch. Like the other residents, Shula is tied to a ribbon which is attached to a coil that perches in a large tree. She is told that should she ever cut the ribbon, she'll be cursed and transformed into a goat.
Critique de Melissa Mars
A poetic dark and humoring tale
A 2018 BAFTA Award for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer, a selection at Directors' Fortnight (quinzaine des réalisateurs) in Cannes Film Festival 2017, and plenty of other festival selections well deserved for Rungano Nyoni’s feature debut I am Not a Witch.
I am Not a Witch is a magical tale where comedy and tragedy are interwoven to virtuosic affect. After a harmless encounter in an African village, the state imprisons the quiet, withdrawn, 8-year-old orphan, Shula, in witch camp — where the witches wear ribbons tied to a tree to ‘keep them from flying’ — and are threatened with a curse if they try to escape.
Through the innocent eyes of Shula who appears with a #bootycall t-shirt - a way to give the audience allowance to laugh - we embark the journey in a Zambian society where anyone can accuse women, even a kid, of witchcraft. They are being tied to a huge ribbon tied to their tree and work on the land as a government property.
I went to see the movie with no knowledge nor research on it. Just compelled by the portrait of the captivating Maggie Mulubwa incarnating Shula and her eyes saying more than any words can tell. And all I wanted to do after the movie ended, is research and read about the director, the movie, the topic… asking myself Is this fictional? Do they still do that?
My heart got shaken with laughs and tears and emotional silence, intense questions, and awe. Awe for the beauty of the movie. I want to give a huge shout out to Columbian cinematographer David Gallego (Embrace of the Serpent), who brought to us a magnificent work and who brings all the meaning to the title Director of Photography… as his work is close to very well composed slow moving photographs. All I wanted to do is grab stills and dive endlessly my eyes and soul into them… The costumes by Holly Rebecca and production design by Nathan Parker who was the art director for The Grand Budapest Hotel, bring the magic and tale dimensions. Each scene is like a painting, a slow motion moment showing us these women owned and tied to their ribbon… The depth of their eyes and expression, the sadness, the profound love and care they have for Shula feels so natural… and yet most of them are non-actresses picked by director Nyoni who decided to gather a cast of friends, family members and non-actors, except for the funny, fascinating and somehow touching Zambian TV star Henry BJ Phiri who plays government official Mr Banda.
So is this fictional? Sadly no. There is nothing beautiful in the idea of women held captives because supposedly witches. Crimes based on which grounds? And then what? For being a witch you get to make the weather rain for a white man? Find out who the thief is among all the suspects? A justice based on beliefs, assumptions and ridiculous judgements. There is nothing beautiful about it and yet director Nyoni channelled her anger, my anger, our anger all and frustrations into this BEAUTIFUL feature debut.
Arthur Miller gave us The Crucible set in the XVIIth century inspired by the XXth century Red Scare. And now, Rungano Nyoni is giving us a poetic, dark and humoring tale I am Not a Witch inspired by what is still happening in 2018. So… I’m ready to wear a t-shirt #Iamnotawitch and ask what do we do next?
The movie is available on VOD and on Amazon Prime!
At Athena Film Festival - February 24 2018
- Note de Melissa Mars: 5