|Maggie Mulubwa, in I Am Not a Witch, by Rungano Nyoni|
This section about the film, I Am Not a Witch by Rungano Nyoni is part of the longer critique: “Cannes 2017: le regard, encore” by Olivier Barlet in Africultures. Translation from French by Beti Ellerson. (An African Women in Cinema Blog/Africultures collaboration). Image: Africultures
I Am Not a Witch is directed by a woman. Rungano Nyoni, who was born in Zambia and grew up in Wales, is known for her multi-awarded short films: The List, Mwansa the Great, and Listen. Shot in the vicinity of Lusaka, I Am Not a Witch is a witty jewel with an unbiased perspective, in which the nine-year-old Maggie Mulubwa imposes herself, her gaze not to be forgotten. Based on the observation that it is almost always women who are accused of sorcery and that the phenomenon is found in different places in Africa, Rungano Nyoni spent a month in Ghana in a two-hundred-year-old "witch camp". This experience allowed her to observe the organisation and patterns as well as the conditions in which the women worked and to visualise the scenario of the film, which she developed at the Cinéfondation du Festival de Cannes in 2013 and then in 2014 at the Moulin d'Ande.
It begins with tourists on a bus who, in the winter of the Four Seasons of Vivaldi, go to see, as in a zoo, a community of witches—made-up and even ludicrously menacing. Hence, the film will tell us about prejudices and in so doing is not afraid to diverge. The witches all have a white ribbon attached to their backs preventing them from flying away, as this is the manner in which they could kill people. Cutting these ribbons would transform them into goats. In the village, the nine-year-old Shula is regarded as a witch, such that she is ultimately incorporated into this community.
She stands out from the rest by the acuity of her judgment in naming those guilty of theft, to the extent that the chief commissioner designates her as assistant. So off we go through a series of fantastical scenes, extremely funny and absolutely allegorical, since throughout the film, it is the condition of women that is evoked: these witches exploited and uneducated, are prodded to buy wigs; they gulp down gin during an inspection by a government representative, the extravagant televisual trickery drives the commissioner's wife to renounce her identity. All of this is based on ancestral beliefs: one summons to make it rain, one skins a chicken, etc. Emancipation strategies are outlined, as in the tale that Shula relates where the ruse inverts the exploitative relationship, and of course, in the finale of this flamboyant film.
Je ne suis pas une sorcière est réalisé par une femme, née en Zambie et qui a grandi au Pays de Galles : Rungano Nyoni – connue pour ses courts métrages multiprimés : The List, Mwansa the Great, Listen. C’est un bijou d’humour et de regard distancié, tourné dans les environs de Lusaka, et dominé par une petite fille de neuf ans, Maggie Mulubwa, dont on n’est pas prêt d’oublier le regard. Parti de la constatation que ce sont toujours les femmes qui sont accusées de sorcellerie et que le phénomène se retrouve en différents points d’Afrique, Rungano Nyoni a passé un mois au Ghana dans un “camp de sorcières” vieux de deux cents ans. Cela lui a permis d’en observer l’organisation et les rythmes, ainsi que les conditions de travail des femmes, et d’envisager l’écriture de ce film qu’elle consolida en 2013 à la Cinéfondation du festival de Cannes puis en 2014 au Moulin d’Ande. POUR LIRE L’INTEGRALITE : http://africultures.com/cannes-2017-regard-14113/