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Film / War Witch

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War Witch (French title: Rebelle) is a 2012 Canadian drama film, directed by Kim Nguyen and starring Rachel Mwanza.

It is set in an indefinite location somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. Komona is a 12-year-old girl who, at the opening of the film, is kidnapped by a band of rebels...but not before that band of rebels forces her to kill her own parents. The rebels are the army of a warlord called the Great Tiger, and they kidnap children from all over to serve as Child Soldiers in their army.

The children seized by the rebel army are horribly abused and brainwashed into becoming loyal foot soldiers. They are also given addictive drugs in the form of a certain hallucinogenic tree sap called "magic milk". One day, when Komona is marching through the forest while high on tree sap, she hallucinates a couple of ghosts. The ghosts tell her to run, and this saves her life when the enemy soldiers hiding behind the trees spring an ambush. The soldiers of the army come to believe that she is a "war witch" with psychic powers.

The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Feature Film and swept the new Canadian Screen Awards, winning 10 including Best Picture.

This film provides examples of:

  • Big Bad: Great Tiger, leader of the militia that conscripted Komona.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: Komona and Magician are children forced to kill soldiers and commit fraud to survive. Great Tiger and his militia are ruthless terrorists who conscript Child Soldiers and commit war crimes daily. The government the rebels are fighting is uncharacterized.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Komona has a catapult nightmare of the ghosts of her parents, demanding that she bury them.
  • Child by Rape: Komona's commander in the Great Tiger's forces repeatedly rapes her. After she gets pregnant, she wonders if she should throw her baby in the river. (She doesn't.)
  • Child Soldiers: Komona and most of her entourage, kidnapped by the Great Tiger and his gang.
  • Crapsack World: The unnamed African country the film is set in is besieged by civil war, with the rebels employing Child Soldiers and killing civilians. Said civilians live in shacks and live off of subsistence farming, with money being practically nonexistent.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Komona names her baby after Magicien.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: Another child soldier dramatically works the action on his AK-47 as he's trying to stop Magicien from leaving. After Magicien refuses to back down the other child soldier turns and walks away.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Magicien. Also his uncle Boucher, who, appropriately enough, is a butcher.
  • Hallucinations: Komona hallucinates "ghosts" (people painted white) in the forest after the rebels force the child soldiers to drink tree sap with hallucinogenic properties.
  • Happily Married: Komona and Magicien, not for long.
  • Hope Spot: Komona and Magicien's time as a married couple.
  • How We Got Here: Begins with Komona, heavily pregnant, narrating her life story as a monologue to her unborn baby.
  • Job Title: War Witch.
  • Narrator: Komona narrates her own story.
  • Off-into-the-Distance Ending: Ends with Komona, baby in arms, hitching a ride on a truck that goes off into the distance.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: Boucher carrying the dead body of his nephew Magicien after the Great Tiger's goons kill him.
  • Sadistic Choice: Right at the beginning, we're treated to Komona being forced to shoot her own parents to spare them being hacked to death by the soldiers. Later she has to face the same decision towards her husband. This time she kneels beside him and the Great Tiger's men pull her away and kill him by machete.
  • Sand Necktie: Komona relates a terrifying anecdote about a rebel who tried to steal a magic stone from the Great Tiger, and was buried up to his neck as a punishment. It took him three days to die.
  • Screaming Birth: All the worse for the fact that she has to do it completely alone and in the bush.
  • Self-Made Orphan: The rebels force Komona to shoot her parents.
  • Shout-Out: The rebels let the child soldiers watch Universal Soldier: Regeneration.
  • Staged Pedestrian Accident: Magicien pulls this, throwing himself into a car and demanding money after he's hit. It works.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Komona has this most of the time as a result of the terrible suffering she undergoes with the rebel group.
  • Vagina Dentata: Basically done for real, and richly deserved. Komona puts a thorn inside a fruit and hides it in her private area. When the commander comes to rape her again, he slices up his penis. As he's reeling in pain from this, she grabs a machete and kills him.
  • War Is Hell: Especially when children are supposed to fight in it.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The Great Tiger and his men have no problem beating the children they take in as Child Soldiers.