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I Am Not a Witch

  • Film
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

A sharp-edged, magical-realist journey into Zambian society seen through the eyes of a young orphan girl.

A startling movie, ‘I Am Not a Witch’ is many things. It’s a magic realist fable set in present-day Zambia that has plenty to say about gender and superstition. It’s also a satire, a tragedy and a comedy. And, impressively, debut writer-director Rungano Nyoni makes this heady mix work.

Newcomer Maggie Mulubwa stars as eight-year-old orphan Shula, who is randomly accused of witchcraft and forced to join a travelling witch show. She’s mistreated yet revered: her ‘powers’ are called upon to pick felons out of line-ups. There’s a Kafkaesque flavour as Nyoni explores these contradictions and pokes fun at absurd bureaucrats. Chief comic figure – and villain – is Mr Banda (Henry BJ Phiri), a public official who exploits Shula for profit. We meet him lying in his bath, being soaped down by his female companion and talking on the phone to a police officer about a ‘new witch in town’. This is an ugly patriarch lazily using women for his own ends – and there are Mr Bandas still out there: the Zambian-born, Welsh-raised Nyoni stayed in real-life ‘witch camps’ as part of her research.

Some scenes outstay their welcome, and the film is no easy piece of exotica: Western tourists are implicitly culpable in this story. But that just makes it all the more compelling.

Written by
Anna Smith

Release Details

  • Rated:12A
  • Release date:Friday 20 October 2017
  • Duration:93 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Rungano Nyoni
  • Screenwriter:Rungano Nyoni
  • Cast:
    • Maggie Mulubwa
    • Henry BJ Phiri
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