I Am Not A Witch ★★★★☆

Congratulations to Welsh-Zambian film maker Rungano Nyoni on I Am Not A Witch, the festival’s only proper British debut.

It’s a haunting, funny, strange satire on African womanhood, oweing much to the wonderful cinema of Abderrahmane Sissako or Souleyman Cisse.

Shula is a child accused of being a witch. Thus she is transported to a community of witches who live on the edge of town, all of them yoked to large spools of ribbon, limiting their movements.

Shula is put to work by Mr Banda, the local police chief and government rep, who uses her to sniff out criminals and even promises she will bring the rains. His flustered incompetence is a marvel.

It’s often a very funny film and Nyoni shoots with poetry and irony, always deeply into the soil, one feels, and the people.

She mixes folkloric with modern, creating a serious satire about the treatment of women, along with other layers of post-colonial African grievances. There is a certain tendency to obfuscate where perhaps a clearer line on her interesting story might help an audience not come out scratching a collective head, but there is mystery enough and sounds and images to savour. Crucially, this film maker’s heart is as interesting as her eye.

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