I am not a Witch is a poignant, if often mysterious and frustrating, debut from Zambian-born Welsh director Rungano Nyoni. Equally strange and alluring, the movie tells the story of the nine-year-old orphan girl, Shula, played by Maggie Mulubwa.
Shula is identified as a witch by the local community and banished to a government-run camp.
Through her telling of the story, Nyoni delivers a scathing comment on dogma, prejudice and corruption in Zambia. Shula’s absurd tale is told in a deadpan style, with many events remaining unexplained. But the debut is strikingly original and easy to admire, especially from a distance.
Shula is tied to a massive wooden bobbin and presented with a choice: stay tethered in camp and become a slave or cut the ribbon that binds her and transform into a goat.
This is a fascinating witch’s brew of absurdism, realism, satire and fairy tale.
A striking, if self-conscious, aesthetic is thrillingly combined with rural Zambian locations and a magnetic, almost entirely amateur cast.
Like its young heroine, the film remains intriguingly hard to read yet casts a strange, boldly beautiful spell.
Photo Credit: Film4