Jeff Smith 4 p.m., Dec. 20
Review: War Witch
More well-intentioned ugliness trawling for Oscar. Canada’s official entry for the best foreign language film of 2013, and one of the five nominated pictures, begins promisingly enough with a young mother recounting her life story to her unborn child.
Komona’s (Rachel Mwanza) prenatal narration picks up with a rebel soldier ordering the 12-year-old girl to kill her parents and become a child mercenary. Guns are her new parents and Komona’s ability to successfully dodge government bullets earns her the title appellation.
As in Mr. Roberts and countless other American service pictures, the troops are given a little R&R in the form of a movie night. Instead of gung-ho propaganda, our band of young combatants are distracted by JCVD.
Komona falls in love with Magician (Serge Kanyinda), an albino soldier. He introduces the girl to a hallucinogenic tree sap that persuades Komona that she sees ghosts of dead soldiers. Magician convinces the Komona to join his escape from the rebel camp. The film would have ended a lot sooner were it not for a pointless mid-movie excursion to find a rare white rooster -- a symbol of the couple’s undying love.
We’ve visited this child’s garden of hate too many times in the recent past (Tsotsi, City of God, Sin Nombre, etc.) and images that once held a great deal of power have become old hat. War Witch’s contribution to depicting the perils of pubescent battle finds Komona using a razor blade as an IUD to ward off a rapist.
Why do empty message pictures like War Witch exist? Do we really need a movie to tell us that children shouldn’t play with guns? If you’re going to see one Canadian film at the Gaslamp this week, make it Mental, not this long way to go for a forgone conclusion.
War Witch starts Friday at Reading Cinemas Gaslamp 15. Click for showtimes.
Reader Rating: One Star