Following up on Tambays January post on the efforts by theproducers of the Academy Award nominated (for Best Foreign Language Film) Congolese drama Rebelle (War Witch), to bring the star of the acclaimed film, Rachel Mwanza, to Hollywood for Academy Awards night, since the film is nominated.
As Tambay noted in his post, there were some issues with getting Mwanza a USA visa, because American authorities were concerned that she’d remain in the USA illegally, and not return to the DRC, to summarize the entire piece.
The Canadia Press (who first reported on the story about Mwanza’s visa matters last month) are reporting today that Mwanza will indeed attend this Sunday’s Oscars event in Los Angeles.
A spokeswoman for the Item 7 production company tells The Canadian Press that Rachel Mwanza has received the visas needed to travel to the United States and Canada. Mwanza will also attend the Canadian Screen Awards in Toronto on March 3 and the Jutra ceremony in Montreal on March 17.
This is obviously wonderful news for Rachel and director Kim Nguyen, who helped set up a four-year program for the now-16-year-old, which includes getting her room and board, education and food in her hometown of Kinshasa; and when she’s 18 years old, she’ll get a small chunk of money so that she could possibly invest in some land, or start a business.
Mwanza became homeless after her parents left for Angola and abandoned her when she was even younger, and that’s how she ended up living in the streets of Kinshasa. The filmmakers first spotted her in a documentary on street kids in Kinshasa, and traveled to the city to meet her in person. That’s how she got the part in their film.
In War Witch, we follow on a 3 year journey, starting with her kidnapping by rebels from an unnamed village in which she and her family live, to becoming a child soldier. She’s branded a witch by the rebel leader after she survives an ambush that left the rest of the unit she was dispatched with, dead, and becomes something of a treasure to the leader, who believes she possesses magical powers he can exploit for his own protection. She eventually is able to escape from the camp with an older albino soldier who pledges his love for her, and seeks her hand in marriage, and, for the very first time, albeit for a short period of time, she experiences the simple joys of living a peaceful life; but unfortunately, none of that lasts, and she’s soon thrust back into the madness she once fled.
And for her performance, Mwanza went on to win best actress awards at last year’s Berlin International Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival.
War Witch opens in New York on March 1 2013, and expands to other markets through June.
It’s a film that we encourage you to see in the theater, but if you can’t wait until it comes to your city, or if it’s not coming to your city at all, the film will also be available on demand starting on February 26th.