Starring: Maggie Mulubwa, Dyna Mufuni, Nancy Murilo
Director: Rungano Nyoni
Running Time: 92 mins
I Am Not A Witch is a British/Zambian film about a young girl who, after being accused of being a witch, is sent for judgment, and forced to make a difficult decision on whether to deny the charges against her.
Not only an insightful and often sobering account of the often unfortunate realities faced by many in small, traditional communities around the world, I Am Not A Witch impressively takes on its subject matter with good dramatic heft and a surprising, clever sense of humour, proving a genuinely enjoyable watch alongside one that opens up your eyes to an issue that’s far more complex than you might at first think.
At first glance, I Am Not A Witch may not seem like the most accessible film for general audiences. It’s a bit of a stereotype, but slow pacing, subtitles and a lack of stars can often be a turn-off for many in the early stages of a film, but I’m here to tell you that this film is absolutely worth sticking with right the way through, and what it lacks in mainstream, Hollywood-style appeal, it definitely makes up for with a great story and its unique brand of humour.
Above all, that’s the thing that really makes this film stand out. It tells a fascinating story about traditional communities and the unfortunate realities that many face under the strong hand of a few powerful individuals, but the film isn’t overly heavy-handed when dealing with that main theme, and its most striking and effective ideas come through its brilliant dark humour.
While we see a young girl, Shula, having her world turned upside down after being accused of witchcraft, she becomes involved with the operations of her community’s leader, whose power and fame-hungry ambitions, alongside corruption and an often incompetent disposition, are cause for both derision and genuine dramatic concern.
The leader is played brilliantly by Dyna Mufuni, who brings a subtle element of bumbling incompetence to the character, but in doing so not only sparks a few laughs from you, but also reveals a rather desperate and saddening reality of the modern world, where numerous innocent and unfortunately helpless individuals are forced to live at the beck and call of people like him, and as we see him use Shula in an increasingly exploitative manner throughout, that reality hits home even harder.
It’s a very clever use of dark humour that not only makes the film more enjoyable than you might at first expect, but also furthers the dramatic and thematic point the story is trying to make, and in tandem with two great performances from Maggie Mulubwa and Dyna Mufuni in the lead roles, I Am Not A Witch takes on a surprising and altogether impressively effective new dimension.
Overall, while it may not at first seem to be the most accessible watch, I Am Not A Witch really proves itself over the course of an engaging, surprising and even enjoyable hour and a half. It offers up a sobering story with hard-hitting themes, but through its clever use of dark humour, as well as good writing and acting, the film proves to be a genuinely engaging watch, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.3 overall.