I Am Not a Witch
12th October 2017 9.00pm at Curzon Mayfair
14th October 2017 12.45am at Curzon Soho
15th October 2017 12.30pm at Curzon Soho
Rungano Nyoni’s I Am Not a Witch is part satire but also a fascinating kind of surreal docu-fiction about an area of the world that still engages in witch hunts. However, these Zambian witches are not burned at the stake, they are attached to ribbons on large spools and sent off to a witch camp where they pose for tourists and drink gin.
Although with humorous undertones, the film is also a semi-serious portrayal of child exploitation and abuse, as a little girl (Maggie Mulubwa) is accused of being a witch after a silly incident with a spilled water jug sends the local inhabitants into a frenzy of fearful finger-pointing. They tell the police constable (Nellie Munamonga) that bad things have happened ever since she arrived, spouting ridiculous allegations, one claiming validity in that he dreamt she attacked him.
A government official, Mr Banda (Henry Phiri) is informed about her, tells his wife there is a “new witch in town” and takes the nine-year-old to the witch camp, where the other witches name her Shula. The little girl is obedient, but clearly unhappy. However, when Banda engages Shula to be a kind of psychic in a police line-up, she makes a lucky guess and he takes her in, using her for police work and TV appearances, even trying to market “Shula eggs”. The child discovers that Banda’s wife is also a witch with a spool and ribbon, but now she is married and so is “respectable”.
With David Gallego’s natural, well-constructed shots, sometimes shaky camera work and freeze-frames, the film’s visuals are compelling – beautiful instances of symbolic composition remind of Cocteau, Bunuel and Kubrick. There are juxtapositions and contrasts: wild African settings with capitalist radio ads blaring, witches and traditional rituals with tourists snapping photos, and trappings of tribal life accompanied by Bach chamber music.
I Am Not a Witch is partly a sad tale of a little girl that no one really cares for, who is used and manipulated; and although feisty and smart, she is all alone and left to languish in quiet depression. The movie is also funny, witty, original, superbly composed and artistically intriguing.
I Am Not a Witch is released nationwide on 20th October 2017.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2017 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for I Am Not a Witch here: