War Witch

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"Rebelle" redirects here. For the fragrance by Rihanna, see Rebelle (fragrance). For the Canadian political magazine, see Rebelles.
War Witch
Rebelle (2012 film).jpg
Film poster
Directed by Kim Nguyen
Produced by Pierre Even
Marie-Claude Poulin
Kim Nguyen
Written by Kim Nguyen
Cinematography Nicolas Bolduc
Release dates
  • February 17, 2012 (2012-02-17) (Berlin)
  • October 2012 (2012-10) (Canada)
Running time
90 minutes
Country Canada
Language French, Lingala
Box office $70,544[1]

War Witch (French: Rebelle) is a 2012 Canadian drama film written and directed by Kim Nguyen and was primarily filmed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.[2] The film was in competition for the Golden Bear at the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival in February 2012.[3][4][5] At Berlin, Rachel Mwanza won the Silver Bear for Best Actress.[6] She also won the award for Best Actress at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.[7]

The film was Canada's entry in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 85th Academy Awards,[8][9][10] and became one of the five nominees.[11] Mwanza received a visa to allow her to attend the Academy Awards.[12]

War Witch became the top winner at the 1st Canadian Screen Awards,[13] winning 10 awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor.[13] The film also received the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding International Motion Picture.[14]


During a civil war in sub-saharan Africa, a 12-year-old girl named Komona is abducted by rebel forces to become a child soldier. She is given a gun and told to choose between shooting her parents, who huddle in front of her, or watching them come to a much more painful end via machete. With tears in her eyes, she shoots them. Then, with other captives, she is whisked by motorised canoe up the river and led into a forest where training exercises immediately commence. New recruits are regularly beaten and face near-starvation.

Komona's salvation is her imagination. Stimulated by “magic milk,” a hallucinogen found in sap, she has visions of ghosts in the trees (actors in white body paint, their eyes blank), including those of her parents, who warn her of the enemy’s proximity. She narrowly escapes an ambush after the ghosts alert her to danger.

Word of her supernatural gifts gets back to the Great Tiger (Mizinga Mwinga), who summons her to his side and dubs her his protective “war witch.” It is here that Komona learns of Coltan mining as the primary source of funds backing the war lord.

With her only friend, Magician (Serge Kanyinda), a slightly older albino boy, who introduced her to the sap, she flees the rebel army. The film's middle section is an idyll during which Magician asks Komona to marry him. She refuses unless he catches her a white rooster, and his comical quest for this elusive prize, which is reputed not to exist, is a respite from the rest of the film’s horrors.

For a time, the couple stay with Magician’s uncle, Butcher (Ralph Prosper), who witnessed acts against his family that were so barbarous that Komona refuses to describe them. This peaceful section is buoyed by sparkling fragments of African pop music.

Their euphoria is short-lived. The Great Tiger, needing his war witch, dispatches his soldiers to find Komona. The rebels tell her she has to choose between shooting the Magician and seeing him die in pain after a Machette cut. She chooses to die with him but this is not possible so the Magician is killed by one of the rebels with a Machette. She is dragged back into the forest, where she becomes the sexual slave of a hateful commander. She wreaks an excruciating revenge via castration.

Komona's ultimate desire is to return to her village and bury her parents’ remains so that her child, by the Commander but named after Magician, will not grow up cursed.


  • Rachel Mwanza as Komona
  • Alain Lino Mic Eli Bastien as Commandant-rebelle
  • Serge Kanyinda as Magicien
  • Mizinga Mwinga as Grand Tigre Royal
  • Ralph Prosper as Boucher
  • Jean Kabuya as School camp coach
  • Jupiter Bokondji as Royal Tiger sorcerer
  • Starlette Mathata as Komona's mother
  • Alex Herabo as Komona's father
  • Dole Malalou as Coltan dealer
  • Karim Bamaraki as Biker


1st Canadian Screen Awards- Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actress (Mwanza), Best Supporting Actor (Kanyinda), Cinematography, Editing, Art Direction/ Production Design, Sound; Prix Jutra– Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actress (Mwanza), Supporting Actor (Kanyinda), Cinematography, Editing, Sound; Berlin Film Festival– Silver Bear, Actress (Mwanza).

Year Association Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
2014 NAACP Image Award Outstanding International Motion Picture War Witch Won [14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "War Witch: Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  2. ^ "Rebelle". Tiff.net. Retrieved 11 January 2013. 
  3. ^ "18 World Premieres in the Competition". berlinale.de. 2012-01-20. Retrieved 2012-01-20. 
  4. ^ "Rebelle de Kim Nguyen en première mondiale à Berlin". cinoche. 2012-01-20. Retrieved 2012-01-20. 
  5. ^ "'Bel Ami' With Robert Pattinson, Uma Thurman Gets World Premiere in Berlin". hollywoodreporter. 2012-01-20. Retrieved 2012-01-20. 
  6. ^ "Prizes of the International Jury 2012". Berlinale. 2012-02-19. Retrieved 2012-02-19. 
  7. ^ "Cuban 'defector film' takes Tribeca prizes". BBC News. 2012-04-27. Retrieved 2012-04-27. 
  8. ^ "Telefilm Canada announces that Kim Nguyen's War Witch (Rebelle) is Canada's selection for the Best Foreign Language Oscar". 2012-09-18. Retrieved 2012-09-18. 
  9. ^ "Kim Nguyen's Rebelle (War Witch) was Canada's 2012 Oscar submission for best foreign language film". The Montreal Gazette. 18 September 2012. Retrieved 18 September 2012. 
  10. ^ "9 Foreign Language Films Vie For Oscar". Oscars. Retrieved 2012-12-21. 
  11. ^ "Oscars: Hollywood announces 85th Academy Award nominations". BBC News. Retrieved 2013-01-10. 
  12. ^ "Oscars 2013: Congolese War Witch hopeful gets US visa". BBC News. Retrieved 2013-02-21. 
  13. ^ a b "Canadian Screen Awards raises the star wattage". Toronto Star, March 3, 2013.
  14. ^ a b Aaron Couch, Arlene Washington (February 22, 2014). "NAACP Image Awards: The Winners". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 22, 2014. 

External links[edit]