Unpopped Kernel: I Am Not A Witch (2017)

One of the main reasons we at Movies on Weekends started Unpopped Kernels was to help push people to explore films beyond their realm or comfort zone. It was crafted to help folk navigate that tricky beast of streaming services where there are countless movies out there. We want you to find gold in that muck. No wait – diamonds. No wait – platinum. Movies often eschewed by a general consensus, we want to show you the fresh voices or the cult classics that are going to move, change, and shape you.

Unpopped Kernels wants to make sure you are shoving only pure cinematic goodness in your eyeballs. Which is why I am fervently urging you to go watch, right this second, BAFTA award-winning movie I Am Not A Witch.

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Directed by Rungano Nyoni, I Am Not A Witch revolves around eight-year-old Shula who, after a banal incident in her local village, is condemned as a witch and forced to live in a camp with other witches. There, she is made to do menial tasks such as farming as well as performing ceremonies and seeking out criminals for the police force.

Nyoni’s first feature (which, sidebar, I have to say quickly that the absolute sheer masterpieces people are trotting out is insane,) is an immense capturing the spirit, humour, and surrealism of Zambia. This flows from the absurdist behaviour and belief in magic to the care and attention Shula receives at the camp from other “witches relegated there.” The community spirit and characters populate the film throughout are written with extreme care. Moments of farcical hilarity, such as a moment  reminiscent of Monty Python’s “She turned me into a newt” joke, blend into tragedy as Shula and these women are gawked and gaped at by tourists or tied to sticks as they are made to farm for those who “own” them. This is the beautiful essence of the film; Nyoni’s balance of the pained and the The film lashes out at the captors as well as outsiders wishing to take selfies.

Astonishing imagery pushes I Am Not A Witch into top-tier levels of filmmaking. Caught here on camera are visual moments of farcical and imaginative that fleshes out this tale into a story of aching beauty. Embrace of the Serpent cinematographer David Gallego catches an impressive colour scheme here as well as the temperature of sun-tortured landscapes – white trees stretching to the sky combined with fabrics of orange and red make the movie a feast for the eyes, alongside  impressively weird staging and imagery.

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Lead actress Maggie Mulubwa is astonishing, capturing the emotions of a stoic child forced into an extraordinary situation beyond her control. As she deals with hysterical adults, Shula has to learn how to survive, despite feeling abandoned by her community and forced into a new one against her wishes. Mulubwa is electric here in a near silent performance.

I Am Not A Witch is an astonishing debut feature that deals with tragedy and comedy as the bedfellows they should be. A stunning visual treat, it is an amazing movie to watch.

I Am Not A Witch is available on Netflix! 

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