I am not a witch is a film that is written and directed by Nyoni Rungano. It details the journey of a nine year old girl named Shula, played by Maggie Mulubwa. After she is accused of being a witch, she is taken to a witch camp usually reserved for the protection (but more like imprisonment) of much older women accused of being witches. Shula quickly gained notoriety due to her young age for a witch. Consequently, she is exploited and used to promote products by Mr Banda, an unscrupulous government agent, played by Henri Phiri.
Shula’s journey highlights the superstition, exploitation and baseless accusations on which women can be so easily branded witches and excommunicated from their communities. In one of the early scenes a man describes how the little Shula appeared behind him and cut off one of his arms all the while demonstrating with both arms intact and in full display.
Set in the Zambia, this film could be so easily transplanted into any African country or even to early European society where witch hunts were very common. The cinematography is very artistic, making very good use of the bright colours. I particularly liked the way it framed certain shots like a still or a painting. One such scene was the ladies sitting in on the orange truck as we see the camera pan out to reveal more ladies in the shot. I was not impressed however, by the sound scoring featuring mainly violins and orchestra sounds creating an impression of an european film instead.
In one scene, we see a lady angrily throwing rocks at a motorcyclists that brings her daughter to come visit her at the witch camp. Apparently he was the one who accused her of being a witch in the first place yet he was now dating her daughter. and exploited due to the widespread appeal her young age brings. She is used to solve criminal mysteries in makeshift kangaroo courts across the region.
The film is described as a comedy on some sites, but I failed to find any humour in it at all. Although, it is clear that Nyoni carefully pokes fun at some of the rituals and superstitions by showing just how ridiculous they can be at times, all the while managing to maintain a delicate balance preserving the dignity of the accused witches. For example, in one scene we see a witch doctor doing a strange dance after slitting the throat of a chicken, as he seems to tire, he is reminded to keep dancing, I guess, so as to complete the ritual.
It is worth noting that there are real life ‘Witch camps’ still in existence in parts of Africa. So