“War Witch” wins at Tribeca

Montreal filmmaker Kim Nguyen comes out on top.

Jennifer Coxby Jennifer Cox

"War Witch" was one of the big winners at the Tribeca Film Festival, which wrapped up this weekend.

The flick, which stars 12-year-old actress Rachel Mwanza (who also won the honour of Best Actress), is the story of a young pregnant girl who is kidnapped by violent rebels in Africa and is forced to become a child soldier. "I realized quickly that she has an immense talent," Nguyen said in an earlier interview with the Associated Press about the budding performer. "When I asked her how she does it – how she bursts out in laughter, how she starts crying so normally – she just told me that she thinks of her past."

As the Tribeca website explained, although inspired by a real story that took place in Burma, Nguyen decided to film "War Witch" in the Democratic Republic of the Congo without giving a specific location to the plot. He worked on the film for an entire decade, watching and catching children's points of view with his camera and mixing in tightly edited flashbacks in which the spirits of human beings appear with an ultra-realistic and violent storyline. But "War Witch" is also a poignant and impossible love story filled with magic, picturesque images and even light moments like the powerful visit to an albino camp or the chasing of a white rooster.

The 11th Annual Tribeca Film Festival was co-founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff, and this year it was presented by founding sponsor American Express. Award winners were announced at a ceremony hosted at the Conrad New York in New York City.