Oscar 2012: War Witch

Kim Nguyen’s intriguing French-language drama, “War Witch” (or “Rebelle” its more accurate French title), follows the story of a teenage Congolese girl (played with conviction and authenticity by newcomer Rachel Mwanza), who was abducted by a rebel army at age 12 to fight for their cause.

Nguyen presents a poignant and harrowing portrait of Komona, a 14-year-old girl who has been kidnapped from her African village to become a child soldier. She escapes from the camp with an older albino soldier and experiences for the very first time the joys of a peaceful and loving life, but a fresh tragedy will force her to confront and fight the ghosts haunting her mind.

Although inspired by a real story that took place in Burma, Nguyen decided to film War Witch in the Democratic Republic of the Congo without giving a specific location to the plot. He worked on the film for 10 years, watching and catching children’s points of view with his camera and mixing in tightly edited flashbacks in which the spirits of human beings appear with a realistic and violent storyline.

Strange as it may sound, “War Witch” is also an impossible love story filled with magic, picturesque images, and even light moments, such as a powerful scene that depicts a visit to an albino camp, or the chasing of a white rooster. Tribeca film

Montreal-based Nguyen chose Mwanza as the movie’s protagonist from a casting call in Kinshasa, Congo, which reportedly brought hundred of girls vying for the opportunity.

Mwanza’s compelling performance has won her, so far, the Silver Bear for best actress at the 2012 Berlin Film Festival, and the best actress award at this year’s Tribeca Film Fest.

Though the film is political, Nhuyen focuses on the personal and human dimensions of this dramatic incident, which characterizes the plight of other teenagers in Congo (and elsewhere), raising along the way some provocative issues.