Canadian film wins big at Berlin Film Festival

Lead actress of "War Witch" takes Best Actress prize.

Jennifer Coxby Jennifer Cox

Teenager Rachel Mwanza from the Congo took home the Best Actress award at the Berlin Film Festival for her role in "War Witch" (the English title), a film from Quebec director Kim Nguyen. The flick looks at child soldiers who are forced to fight in wars in Africa and beyond.

"It's a completely surreal story,'' Nguyen said in an interview with Postmedia News last week. "It's a mixture of myth and reality. But it really troubled me, that story (of) how desperate a situation can become when you have complete faith in a nine-year-old child to guide you (into) war. He told the interviewer that he was incredibly impressed by Mwanza's fantastic acting chops at such a young age. "I said, 'Are these actors or are these non-actors?' Who is acting and who is not acting? They all never acted before, but it turns out, every actor who was fascinating, who had something vibrant about them, were from the streets. They didn't have a home, and there's this liveliness, this urgency that you can't invent."

The film, which also goes by its French name "Rebelle," had its world premiere at the event. It was nominated for the top prize, the best film award, as well but did not win (it instead went to "Caesar Must Die," an Italian documentary). Even so, Nguyen told Postmedia News, "This is the first of my four films (in which) what I see on the screen is what I wanted to do. That's my reward, my biggest reward."


Look for "War Witch" in theatres across Canada in the spring.