Set in an unnamed African country, Rungano Nyoni's I Am Not A Witch is a quietly fierce, harrowing story of Shula, an 8-year-old girl, whom after a banal incident is accused of witchcraft and sentenced to state custody. She is taken to a witch camp, where she is indoctrinated into this class of society, one which is extorted and abused by the government officials which manage them. Her government sponsor, an opportunist, sees rich financial gain from young Shula, who is abnormally young to be considered a witch, setting up a one-sided toxic relationship between the two of them, where his greed and her quiet, passiveness lead to tragedy. I Am Not A Witch is an assured debut, a piercing character study that reveals the corrosive nature of authority, and the toxic effects the collective will can have on the individual. I Am Not A Witch asserts that whether this authority is derived by theological or ideological roots makes little difference, as the film showcases an individual in Shula, a young innocent girl, whom is destroyed under the weight of the collective will. The witches on the compound are characters whom have long succumbed to the oppressive will of the autocratic collective - one that views them as dangerous- they accept they are property of the state. Shula is a quiet character, one which barely speaks at all, yet her journey is one that sees her be extorted and possessed, lacking even the most basic liberty or free will over her body and her actions. Shula accepts her place at first but there is a quiet sense of rebellion in this characterization that builds as the film progresses, with her her actions in the conclusion confirming what is quietly suggested - she will not succumb to the desires of anyone, she will have free will over her body and soul. While some may interpret the film's conclusion as a statement about the intrinsic balance between freedom and safety, I Am Not A Witch acknowledges this balance but its final frame, where we see the white ribbons waving freely in the wind, suggests that the filmmakers solely understand that liberty of the individual is most paramount.
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