Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hava Nagila: The Movie (FILM REVIEW)

Hava Nagila: The Movie
Film Review by Kam Williams

Musical Documentary Celebrates Festive Folksong

            To most Gentiles, Hava Nagila is just a catchy ditty you get to sing along with at a lot of sporting events. But who wrote the words and the music of this staple of Jewish weddings and bar mitzvahs, and what is the cultural significance of the timeless tune?
            These are the questions tackled in Hava Nagila: The Movie, a very entertaining and informative documentary directed by Roberta Grossman. The film features performances of the festive folksong by everyone from Connie Francis to Danny Kaye to Harry Belafonte to Chubby Checker. Also included are humorous renditions by comedians Allan Sherman and Jo Anne Worley and rock icon Bob Dylan.
            But first, considerable attention is devoted to Hava Nagila’s derivation. Composed in Jerusalem in the early 20th Century, there is debate to this day whether the lyrics, ostensibly inspired by Psalm 118 Verse 24 of the Hebrew Bible, were written by choir director Abraham Zevi Idelsohn or by his 12 year-old protégé, Moshe Nathanson. At least there is no dispute about the melody, which can readily be traced from Palestine back to the Balkans.
            Of far more consequence than the question of authorship is what Hava Nagila has meant to different generations of Jews. Initially, its upbeat message marked a distinct departure from the general tenor of their folk music, which had mostly been nostalgic and sad.
            After World War II, the relatively-euphoric Hava Nagila spearheaded a virtual cultural reboot that was sorely needed in the wake of The Holocaust. Thus, for the postwar survivors, it came to represent the existence and resurrection of the Jewish people.
            However, the picture points out that Hava Nagila lost some of its luster with the one step removed Baby Boomers who came to see the song less as a visceral reclamation of their roots than as a nostalgic reminder of an imagined past. And its being lampooned on TV shows like Laugh-In, The Simpsons and Curb Your Enthusiasm as well as on countless Youtube clips has left sage Jewish elders of today wondering whether the song still has a soul or if it has been reduced to a symbol of assimilation into the American mainstream. 
            Regardless, this once-sacred anthem seems destined to be forever revered as a song that, at a critical moment in Jewish history, provided joy in the face of loss and hope in the face of fear. Everything you ever wanted to know about Hava Nagila but were afraid to ask except, “What’s the deal with the ritual of raising a chair in the air like you don’t care?”
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 75 minutes
Distributor: Katahdin Productions

To see a trailer for Hava Nagila, visit:

The Battle of Pussy Willow Creek (FILM REVIEW)

The Battle of Pussy Willow Creek
Film Review by Kam Williams

Civil War Mockumentary Spoofs Ken Burns Production

            Over the years, Ken Burns has shot numerous historical documentaries covering such slices of Americana as Baseball as The Civil War. The latter is the subject of satire in this irreverent mockumentary mimicking the tone of the Emmy Award-winning director’s typical production.
            The plot revolves around The Battle of Pussy Willow Creek, a mythical engagement said to have turned the tide in favor of the North. The film focuses on the roles played by four unlikely heroes that fateful day: a gay colonel (Matthew Ludwinski), a nerdy fugitive slave (Barron A. Myers), a geriatric Chinese launderer (Scooter MacRae) and a one-armed prostitute passing as a drummer boy (Mara Kassin).
            Ala Burns, the picture features a profusion of talking heads, self-impressed experts who wax romantic while weighing-in about what transpired 150 years ago. Unfortunately, this one-trick pony isn’t very funny, as its running joke wears out its welcome after a half-hour or so.
            It might have helped if the flick had a deeper message to deliver beyond one advocating inclusion regardless of age, gender, color or sexual preference. By comparison, the similarly-themed C.S.A. (The Confederate States of America) was a spoof which proved far more thought-provoking because it created an alternate universe where slavery still existed because the South won the war.
            Even though the overambitious The Battle of Pussy Willow Creek misses the mark, first-time writer/director Wendy Jo Cohen exhibits sufficient potential to make me curious about her next venture. What’s next, a Glee-inspired, musical lampoon of World War II with black GIs serving alongside openly-gay GIs in an already integrated military?

Fair (1 star)
Running time: 96 minutes
Distributor: Wide Sphere Films  
To see a trailer for The Battle of Pussy Willow Creek, visit: 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Kam's Movie Kapsules for 3-8-13

Kam's Kapsules:      
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun         
by Kam Williams
For movies opening March 8, 2013

Dead Man Down (R for sexuality, violence and pervasive profanity) Multilayered whodunit, set in NYC, about a couple of grieving neighbors (Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace) who flirt before bonding because of a mutual passion for revenge. A-list cast includes F. Murray Abraham, Isabelle Huppert, Terrance Howard, Dominic Cooper and Armand Assante.     

Oz the Great and Powerful (PG-13 for action, scary images and brief mild epithets) James Franco stars in this prequel to The Wizard of Oz as a shady circus magician who gets a shot at redemption after being swept by a tornado from Kansas to an enchanting, faraway land. With Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Bill Cobbs and Zach Braff.   


The ABCs of Death (Unrated) A to Z horror flick, shot by 26 directors, with each one’s segment titled by a different letter of the alphabet and illustrating a unique way to die. Starring Dallas Malloy, Lee Hardcastle and Lucy Clements.

Emperor (PG-13 for violence, smoking and brief profanity) Romance drama set in postwar Japan where a U.S. General (Matthew Fox) searches for an ex-girlfriend  (Eriko Hatsune) while deciding the fate of Emperor Hirohito. With Tommy Lee Jones, Aaron Jackson and Kaori Momoi. (In English and Japanese with subtitles)

The Girl (PG-13 for profanity, violence, disturbing images, smoking and mature themes) Dysfunctional family drama, set in Texas, about a struggling single-mother (Abbie Cornish) who loses custody of her son (Austin Wayne West) to the foster care system only to have things go from bad to worse when she gets caught trying to make some easy money by smuggling an undocumented alien across the border. With Geoffrey Rivas, Austin West and Will Patton.  

Greedy Lying Bastards (PG-13 for brief profanity) Eco-documentary exposing the corporate interests thwarting scientists’ efforts to inform the public that the upsurge in droughts, wildfires, tornados, glacier loss and wildfires are the result of man-made climate change. (In English and Spanish with subtitles)

Gut Renovation (Unrated) Gentrification documentary chronicling the erection of luxury condos in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn by real estate developers following the eviction of the struggling artists and working-class families living in the community.  

Language of a Broken Heart (Unrated) Romantic comedy about a just-jilted, love guru (Juddy Talt) who abandons NYC for his hometown of Rockford, Illinois where he finds himself falling for a free-spirited bookseller (Julie White).  With Kate French, Oscar Nunez and Lara Pulver.

The Other Side of the Ice (Unrated) Atlantic and Pacific documentary chronicling a family’s attempt to sail from Newport, Rhode Island to Seattle, Washington by way of the treacherous Northwest Passage.

The Silence (Unrated) Copycat crime thriller about a 13 year-old (Anna Lena Klenke) who vanishes from the same spot where another little girl (Melina Fabian) was raped and murdered decades earlier by a handyman (Ulrich Thomsen) never brought to justice. With Wotan Wilke Mohring, Katrin Sasz and Sebastian Blomberg. (In German with subtitles)

Somebody Up There Likes Me (Unrated) Buddy comedy about best friends (Keith Poulson and Nick Offerman) who are both in love with the same woman (Jess Wexler). Cast includes Kevin Corrigan, Megan Mullally and Stephanie Hunt.

The We and the I (Unrated) Day-in-the-life drama revolving around the exploits of a group of Bronx teens boarding a bus at the start of their summer vacation. Starring Joe Mele, Meghan Murphy, Alex Raul Barrios, Michael Brodie and Teresa Lynn.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Jack the Giant Slayer (FILM REVIEW)

Jack the Giant Slayer  
Film Review by Kam Williams

Farm Boy Rises to the Occasion in Breathtaking Adaptation of Beloved Fairytale

            When Jack (Nicholas Hoult) was a little boy, his imagination was whetted by a bedtime story about a mythical war waged ages ago against a fearsome race of giants that had descended from the sky. Before his mother (Caroline Hayes) died soon thereafter, she suggested that he might even be related to Erik the Great (Craig Salisbury), the brave monarch who had led the valiant defense of Earth against the gargantuan invaders.
            Meanwhile, on the other side of the peaceable kingdom’ proverbial tracks, young Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) was being spoon-fed a similar tale about an epic showdown between good and evil. But she was read to at night by her doting father, King Brahmwell (Ian McShane), due to her mother’s (Tandi Wright) untimely demise.
            A decade later, we find the lowly farmhand’s path crossing with that of the future queen the day the headstrong teenager sneaks out of the castle to rub shoulders with the hoi polloi. At a puppet show, Jack rushes to her assistance the moment she finds herself being accosted by a menacing gang of ruffians.
            The damsel-in-distress becomes so smitten with the gallant lad that she informs her father of a desire to break off her arranged engagement to the insufferable Roderick (Stanley Tucci), an effete lout twice her age. Nonetheless, King Brahmwell would rather have his daughter marry a blue-blooded member of the Royal Court she doesn’t love than tie the knot with a mere commoner.
            Before the moment of truth arrives, however, fate intervenes in the form of a monk (Simon Lowe) who hands Jack a few mysterious beans. During a secret visit from Isabelle, one slips through the floorboards, takes seed under his house, and starts to grow rapidly, sweeping the humble abode and the Princess way up into the heavens.
            Soon, both of her suitors join the search party, scaling the mile-high beanstalk to an otherworldly realm in the clouds. Jack has no idea that the mammoth plant has also inadvertently reopened a gateway to the ground for an army of gigantic adversaries. And it’s not long before ancient hostilities are reignited over Isabelle and the fate of the planet below.
            Directed by Bryan Singer, Jack the Giant Slayer is an alternately enchanting and eyepopping adventure which must be seen in 3-D to be appreciated fully. Between the breathtaking panoramas and the daring derring-do on display, the picture amounts to a captivating, cinematic treat guaranteed to enthrall tykes, ‘tweeners, and just about anyone interested in seeing a classic fairytale brought to life.  
            Fee! Fye! Foe! Fumm! I smell a hit with the little ones!
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for frightening images, brief profanity and intense violence
Running time: 114 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers  

To see a trailer for Jack the Giant Slayer, visit:   


Fighting to Put Students First
by Michelle Rhee
Harper Collins
Hardcover, $27.99
304 pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-220398-4  

Book Review by Kam Williams

“Why am I a radical? Because in order to live up to our promise as a nation, we cannot rest until we provide a quality education for all our children. If America is truly going to be the land of equal opportunity, we have to provide that opportunity to every single child, regardless of where they live, what color they are, and what their parents do…
Right now, our public school system isn’t working for every child. It isn’t working for our economy. And it isn’t working for our democracy. As a result… cycles of poverty repeat and… a generation of children… too often children of color… is being denied its civil rights to a high-quality education.” 
-- Excerpted from Chapter Twelve (pgs. 268-269)

            Michelle Rhee spent a stormy three years in the public eye as the embattled Schools Chancellor of the Washington, DC public schools. A first-generation Korean-American descended from a long line of educators, she embarked on a career as a teacher in inner-city Baltimore soon after graduating from Cornell University with a BA in government.
            However, her star really started to rise after she earned a Masters Degree in Public policy at Harvard University’s prestigious Kennedy School. She was subsequently recruited by NYC School Chancellor Joel Klein to help handle his stalled contract talks with the teachers’ union.
            And on the strength of Michelle’s negotiations with UFT president Randi Weingarten, Klein recommended his feisty protégé for the top job in DC. Washington’s public schools were among the worst performing in the nation, and Rhee found a very receptive Mayor in Adrian Fenty, who gave his new hire free reign to overhaul his troubled system in accordance with her controversial reforms.
            Employing a “kids first” philosophy, Rhee chopped heads in the top-heavy administration, firing dozens of dead wood principals, laying off hundreds of extraneous office workers and closing over twenty underperforming schools. Although students’ test scores improved during her brief stint in the position, her anti-union stance proved unpopular.          
            Mayor Fenty’s reelection bid was basically a referendum on whether the city wished to continue with Rhee’s scorched earth philosophy. When he lost, her days were numbered, so she handed in her resignation rather than wait around to be fired.
            A blow-by-blow of all of the above is recounted in riveting fashion in Radical, a revealing autobiography devoted as much to Michelle’s political career as to her private life. As compelling as the debate about teacher tenure, charter schools and private school vouchers was reading about the author’s being raised in a suburb of Toledo, Ohio by immigrants who sent their daughter as an adolescent to live with an aunt back in Seoul for a year.  
            We get to see what a role having strict parents who put such a heavy emphasis on academic achievement might have played in shaping Michelle’s high hopes and expectations for every child. I was also surprised to learn that this divorced mother of two recently married former NBA star-turned-Mayor of Sacramento Kevin Johnson.
            A heartfelt memoir by a passionate champion of every child’s right to a decent education.                    

Monday, February 25, 2013

2013 Oscar Recap

                        Oscar Recap

Argo Wins Best Picture While Life of Pi Lands the Most Awards
                  Ben Affleck got the last laugh after being snubbed by the Academy in the Best Director category when his film, Argo, won the award for Best Picture. However, Ang Lee’s Life of Pi landed the most Oscars overall, four, including an upset of Spielberg for director.
                  The only other major surprise arrived at the outset of the telecast when Christoph Waltz won Best Supporting Actor (Django Unchained) in a race thought to be between Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook) and (Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln). As for this critic’s prognostications, I got 15 of 21 correct, including Argo.
                  Much of the pre-Oscar buzz had been about Seth MacFarlane’s hosting the Oscars, and how his irreverent brand of humor would be received by the crowd. Although he didn’t take many potshots at Hollywood royalty, his monologue, performances and banter did reflect a disappointing coarsening of the culture.
                  Whether invoking the name of porn star Ron Jeremy or doing a song and dance celebrating nude scenes “We Saw Your Boobs”, MacFarlane frequently resorted to racy material inappropriate for children. He also took a few jabs at Jews, implying that claiming to be at least half-Jewish or a big supporter of Israel was a prerequisite to making it in show business.
                  But he leveled the lion’s share of his acerbic barbs at African-Americans. For example, in a skit inspired by Denzel Washington’s film Flight, he had a black, hand puppet drinking alcohol and snorting coke,
                  Then there was his shockingly-pedophilic sexualizing of 9 year-old Best Actress nominee Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) by speculating about when she’d be too old to date George Clooney. And he made light of domestic abuse when he suggested that Chris Brown and Rihanna considered Django Unchained a date movie because it was about a man trying to get back a woman who’s been subjected to unspeakable violence.
                  Seth also quipped that it’s okay for Quentin Tarantino to use the N-word “because he thinks he’s black,” and he wondered whether Daniel Day-Lewis might’ve tried to free Don Cheadle had he bumped into him on the studio lot while still in character.
                        The offensive fare revolving around race was ultimately offset somewhat when they had First Lady Michelle Obama open the envelope for Best Picture from the White House. Still, this Oscar show was anything but a family affair.

Complete List of Oscar Winners:


Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)

Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)

Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)

Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)

Ang Lee (Life of Pi)


Django Unchained



"Skyfall" (Skyfall)

Life of Pi


Life of Pi

Searching for Sugar Man

Life of Pi

Les Miserables

Anna Karenina


Tie: Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty

Les Miserables




Bryan Singer (INTERVIEW)

Bryan Singer
The “Jack the Giant Slayer” Interview
with Kam Williams

The Life of Bryan

            Bryan Singer has consistently entertained audiences between a bold visual style and richly drawn characters ever since his making a noteworthy feature film debut in 1993 with the Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize-winner "Public Access." He gained widespread attention a couple years later with the crime thriller "The Usual Suspects" which won Academy Awards for Kevin Spacey (Best Supporting Actor) and Christopher McQuarrie (Best Original Screenplay).
            Singer’s subsequent film was an adaptation of the Stephen King novella "Apt Pupil," followed by the wildly successful "X-Men" and "X2: X-Men United.” He was next tapped to helm "Superman Returns," the first blockbuster shot on the Panavision Genesis digital camera, and the first live action film to utilize the post-conversion 3D process.
            Most recently, Bryan made the World War II drama "Valkyrie," starring Tom Cruise. And he is currently in production directing "X-Men: Days of Future Past," which reunites numerous cast members from the franchise’s previous films.
            For television, Singer directed the pilot and was executive producer on the Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning series "House," starring Hugh Laurie.  He also produced the ABC series "Dirty Sexy Money" and the HBO documentary "Vito," about author and 1980s AIDS activist Vito Russo.
            Bryan has directed and/or produced a myriad of other projects through his Bad Hat Harry Productions, a motion picture and television production company formed in 1994. To date, his projects have grossed over two billion dollars worldwide.
            Here, he talks about his latest film, “Jack the Giant Slayer,” a big screen version of the classic fairytale.

Kam Williams: Hi Bryan, thanks for the interview.
Bryan Singer: Sure. Not at all, Kam. My pleasure.

KW: Guess what? I met your mom in a waiting room last year. We happen to have the same dentist. 
BS: Oh really? That’s cool. Are you from Princeton?

KW: Yep.
BS: How random! That’s funny. How did you know it was my mom?
KW: I struck up a conversation with her, and mentioned I was a film critic.  
BS: And I bet it was the first thing that came out of her mouth.

KW: Just about. She’s a very proud mama who’s very knowledgeable about film in general. We had a great chat!
BS: That’s so nice, since she’s a big movie fan, herself. 

KW: I invited her to attend the screening of the film the studio set up for me locally, but she declined.
BS: Yeah, she’s flying out to join me at the premiere here in L.A.

KW: What interested you in making Jack the Giant Slayer?
BS: At the time, there were no fairytale movies in development that I was aware of, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to do something different that I hadn’t seen before and that I hadn’t done before. A product existed called Jack the Giant Killer, which I kind of rewrote from scratch with Chris McQuarrie and Dan Studney, who are also Jersey kids.  So, it began with that and my desire to see beanstalks and giants in a way they’ve never been portrayed before.

KW: I was familiar with Jack and the Beanstalk, but I don’t remember reading Jack the Giant Killer as a child.
BS: Jack the Giant Killer was from the 1700’s, and kind of an Arthurian character who went around slaying giants and sending their heads back to King Arthur. This film takes some inspiration from both fairytales but, frankly, it’s its own original story. 

KW: Larry Greenberg asks: Can you tell me about how you directed the relationship between Jack [played by Nicholas Hoult] and Isabelle [played by Eleanor Tomlinson] with all the chaos going on around them.
BS: How do I put this? By basically making sure there was enough material that could build between them. But one of the key things was something I shot very late in the game, namely, the opening scene. I still didn’t feel that their destiny was cemented, so I went to New Zealand to shoot the opening where you see them being read to as little kids, and designed it to be intercut, much the same way the next scene is intercut when Jack’s uncle and Isabelle’s father are scolding them. By doing that you set them on a path of romantic destiny. So, that setup not only gave the history of the giants, but put the idea of the two characters being on a trajectory to be together in the audience’s mind. By the way, I used some of [director] Peter Jackson’s stages and crew from the Hobbit for that. And I got to go to the Hobbit premiere while I was down there, which was a lot of fun. 

KW: So you shot some of the film in New Zealand?
BS: Only those scenes where the parents were reading to the children. Those scenes also established who Jack and Isabelle were meant to be had his father and her mother not died. Now, Jack is fatherless and trapped on the farm, while Isabelle is motherless and trapped in a castle by an overprotective father who is afraid of losing the only other woman in his life. So, that opening tableau sort of sets the characters up in a fun way, and we shot it in New Zealand over a couple days. The rest of the movie was completely shot in London.

KW: Is there a message you want people to take away from the film?
BS: No, I don’t think of it as that kind of film. It’s just supposed be entertaining. Awards season is over, so it’s time for an adventure.

KW: Documentary filmmaker Kevin Williams says: I’m from Trenton and almost everyone I meet from Princeton says they know you or your mom. His question is, how do you fight off complacency, and do you look at scripts any differently today versus earlier in your career?  
BS: Well, early in my career, I really wasn’t look at scripts. I was developing them from scratch. Now, I look at them for inspiration but, ultimately, I’m driven to a kind of movie I want to make, knowing that eventually I’m going to bring aboard my friends, some of whom I grew up with, like Chris, and others whom I met later in life, like Dan. So, initially, I’m just looking for an idea, for a kernel of a story.

KW: Have you met Damien Chazelle out there in Hollywood yet? He’s an up-and-coming young director also from Princeton whose short film just won at Sundance.
BS: No, I haven’t, but it would be great to meet him.

KW: Erik Daniels, who teaches at West Windsor High School South, your alma mater, says: We all know how formative the high school years are. How influential was your high school experience in shaping your desire to direct?
BS: It was very fostering. I had a communications teacher named Denise Mangani who really opened up my mind to the cinematic arts in general. And I also had a creative writing teacher, Mr. Berridge, who was very inspiring in terms of thinking about stories. Another was my social studies teacher, Ms. Fiscarelli. She was very influential because she taught a comprehensive unit on The Holocaust. That material has found its way into many of movies, from Apt Pupil to X-Men to Valkyrie to X-Men: First Class, as well as into some of the documentaries I’ve produced. That subject-matter has been very important to me.

KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: Is there a new genre of film that you would like to tackle for the first time?
BS: Yes, horror. Something supernatural. I always enjoy a good horror film, and there hasn’t been a great horror film like The Exorcist for awhile.                                                        

KW: Patricia also asks: What director did you admire the most growing up?
BS: Steven Spielberg.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
BS: I’ve been reading a lot of David Sedaris lately. I recently finished “When You Are Engulfed in Flames”

and his “Holidays on Ice.”

And I’m currently reading “Barrel Fever.”

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles notes that you produced the TV series “House” which is set in your hometown, Princeton. She asks: Were you also involved in the writing?
BS: No, the original script which was written by David Shore, was set in Boston. I moved it to Princeton because I didn’t want it to be just a city hospital. I also felt Princeton was a perfect location to have a diversity of patients. 

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
BS: Time moving forward, not backwards. [LOL]

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
BS: I don’t cook, but I love eating sushi.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
BS: Eternal good health.

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
BS: My father reading a storybook to me at about the age of 2. It had a fly on every page, and whenever we saw the fly, we’d fall back on the bed together and laugh.  

KW: Thanks again for the time, Bryan, and best of luck with the film.
BS: Sure thing, Kam, and if you see my mom in town, tell her I said “Hi.”  

KW: Will do!
BS: Thanks!

To see a trailer for Jack the Giant Slayer, visit:   

Sunday, February 24, 2013


War Witch
Film Review by Kam Williams

12 year-old Endures Host of Horrors in Haunting Coming-of-Age Drama 

            Komona’s (Rachel Mwanza) life was irreversibly altered at the tender age of 12 when rebel forces led by the Great Tiger (Mizinga Mwinga) rampaged through her tiny African village. The unfortunate girl was forced at gunpoint to kill her own parents (Starlette Mathata and Alex Herabo) before being abducted and brainwashed into joining the cause.
            Deep in the jungle, she was befriended by other kids orphaned by the conflict before being trained to use a weapon against government soldiers. However, more valuable than marksmanship, Komona developed an uncanny knack for sensing enemy positions, a skill which proved handy during encounters with deadly snipers and machine gun nests.
            This supernatural ability came to the attention of her superiors, and by the time she turned 13, the so-called “War Witch” was appointed a personal advisor of General Tiger. In that capacity, Komona also had to work closely with Magician (Serge Kanyinda), an albino boy with extra sensory perception.
            It’s been said that there are no atheists in foxholes. Apparently there aren’t any celibates in foxholes either. For, it’s not long before the two seers fall madly in love. Magician proposes, they go AWOL, and Komona ends up pregnant by her 14th birthday.
            Thus unfolds War Witch, a haunting drama chronicling an adolescent’s coming-of-age under the most trying of circumstances. Written and directed by Canadian Kim Nguyen who shot on location in the Congo, the moving character study was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Film category.
            The picture is cleverly constructed as a series of vivid flashbacks narrated by Komona directly addressing the unborn baby growing in her belly. While the plucky protagonist easily earns our admiration for maintaining her sanity in the midst of the madness, there is still something slightly unsettling about a production so matter-of-fact about the endless atrocities providing the backdrop for such a touching front story.
            21st Century Africa presented as a godforsaken wasteland conjuring up primitive images reminiscent of the ghoulish dystopia chronicled by Conrad in Heart of Darkness. 

Very Good (3 stars)
In French and Lingala with subtitles
Running time: 90 minutes
Distributor: TriBeCa Film  
To see a trailer for War Witch, visit: