Part magic realist fable and part gendered social critique, Rungano Nyoni’s debut feature focuses on a young girl who is banished from her village in Zambia and sent to a camp for exiled witches.
In her striking and assured debut feature, I am not a Witch, Rungano Nyoni upends all conventions of onscreen sorcery, offering a fresh cinematic vision that will haunt the audience long after the film's final moments.
When nine-year-old Shula (the subdued but unforgettable Margaret Mulubwa) is accused of witchcraft, she is sent away to a "witch camp" to live in abysmal conditions alongside other women who've been exiled in order to be forgotten. As is the custom, Shula is fitted with a spindle on her back, from which a long white ribbon runs: a "security measure" to ensure she won't fly off. On her first night in the camp she's told she may cut the ribbon, but doing so will turn her into a goat. Faced with this non-choice (Nyoni's scathing satire of patriarchal control runs throughout), Shula remains tethered — to the camp, its exploitative manager, and a cruelly unjust world.
With its narrative ellipses and achingly beautiful cinematography (shot by Embrace of the Serpent's David Gallego), I am not a Witch blurs the lines between reality and surrealism, fable and fact. It also marks the emergence of an unmissable new talent.