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Critics reviews
I Am Not a Witch
Rungano Nyoni United Kingdom, 2017
In first-world Western countries, the formerly dreaded figure of the witch has been mainstreamed as a spiritual practice of choice or fodder for the entertainment industry. Screenwriter and first-time director Rungano Nyoni, too, has made an entertaining film about witches in I AM NOT A WITCH, but one with a razor-sharp edge.
September 28, 2018
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It’s both structurally and emotionally challenging, frequently positioning the viewer in an uncomfortable no man’s land between absurdist comedy and profound tragedy. It is also a film of immense visual beauty and directorial prowess.
September 07, 2018
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The film is perhaps overly repetitive in emphasizing Shula’s inability to escape exploitation, but the story is put across with formal confidence and real originality.
September 06, 2018
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Beneath the weight of history, Nyoni’s film possesses a wry, sober-minded sense of humor that elicits the pained chuckles of viewers unsure of whether to laugh or cry.
September 04, 2018
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Nyoni’s frank, confrontational style is both derisive and empathetic; she extracts powerful symbolic images from the oppressive environment.
September 04, 2018
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The indignity of being photographed by condescending vacationers adds another layer of outrage to the film’s indictment of societies beholden to traditions that hurt women, whether old-time religious or neoliberal tourist. It’s arguable that Nyoni is stretching a thin premise, but this film is one of the obvious breakouts of the year: exactly the kind of young work—brash, committed, and narratively unpredictable—that film festivals are supposed to champion.
December 22, 2017
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Mulubwa’s stoic performance is the key to the film, giving the audience an entry point to the action and facilitating the story’s electric and unpredictable shifts between dark humour and pure tragedy… The film’s feminist critique gradually creeps up on the viewer with understandable and invigorating anger, culminating in a gut-wrenchingly shocking ending.
September 03, 2017
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The spectacle of white ribbons against the dusty, muted landscape is one of the film’s chilling visual punches. There are some bombastic aural stylistic choices too, with Vivaldi and Estelle rubbing shoulders on the surprising soundtrack. While the satire occasionally feels too blunt, overall the film offers a rush of originality, energy and ambition so often lacking at Cannes.
June 02, 2017
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Part folk tale combining different aspects of Zambian beliefs, part fairy tale lent graphic surreal strokes by the iconographic cinematography, and part satire of a society (Mr. Banda takes Shula on a TV talk show to proclaim her powers and serve as a product endorsement, and we learn his wife is an ex-witch kept in check by material luxury), Nyoni has made an all together unique film about the oppression and exploitation of women in her home country that is brazenly fresh, funny, and angry.
May 31, 2017
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The film crafts a framework of superstition and ritual, onto which is hung a vividly realised, if somewhat enigmatic portrait of a child’s life. Broader points about the cynical marketing and commercialisation of tradition hit home, but a final denouement is a little too cryptic to be fully satisfying.
May 26, 2017
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Perhaps more beautiful and strange than wholly satisfying, it’s nonetheless easy to see why Rungano Nyoni’s debut film arrives in Directors’ Fortnight trailing ribbons of new-discovery buzz… Singular as that story might be, what makes “I Am Not a Witch” unique, however, is Nyoni’s abundant, maybe even overabundant directorial confidence. It’s rare and exhilarating that a new filmmaker arrives on the scene so sure of herself and so willing to take bold, counter-intuitive chances.
May 26, 2017
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