Managing to be neither sentimental nor sensationalistic, the film tells its story from the heart, and from the simple, straightforward viewpoint of young heroine Komona, warmly played by the talented Rachel Mwanza in her screen debut.
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Though ostensibly a character study, it's nevertheless characterized by the vaguely moralizing tone of an issue film, one whose candor in the face of brutality seems calculated for maximum liberal appeal.
It does a marvelous job at giving us an impressionistic taste of horrific circumstances without using them to beat us into submission.
Along with the moral lesson, Nguyen remembers to give auds some pleasures, including the exquisitely chosen soundtrack of African folk and pop music, Nicolas Bolduc's cinematography and the very artful use of sound throughout.
Superstition, witchcraft, exorcism, talismans that ward off evil: in this land of the supernatural, irrationality prevails. But War Witch is so cleareyed that it makes you wonder how much more irrational this world is than the so-called civilized one under its camouflage of material wealth.
War Witch is a remarkably mature portrait that trusts its audience to have their own reactions to its material; it doesn’t yank at the heartstrings so much as expertly strum them.