Just magical storytelling

editorial image

Showing as part of the Black History Month programme here at the Showroom, our Film of the Month is the astonishing I Am Not A Witch.

Written and directed by Zambian-born and Welsh-raised filmmaker Rungano Nyoni, I Am Not A Witch is a stunning feature-length debut that introduces Nyoni as a unique talent and one to watch for the future.

A striking blend of humour and heartbreak, the film is an impassioned response to the mistreatment of women in countries like Zambia and Ghana.

The story revolves around Shula, a nine-year – old girl seemingly on her own in the world, who is accused of witchcraft after being blamed for an incredibly banal incident she just happened to be standing near.

After a brief trial she is sent to a government-run travelling witch camp, where the women are tied to giant spools of white ribbon.

Warned that if they try to break free they will be turned into a goat, the outcast women instead adopt this ‘witch’ identity to be peered at and photographed by tourists; Shula even finds herself used as an oracle by a government official in criminal matters.

But the resilience of the women – shunned by society and even their families – shines in their warmth and support of each other as they live and work the fields together.

With the assistance of cinematographer David Gallego – who was also behind the incredible imagery of last year’s Oscar-nominated Embrace of the Serpent – I Am Not A Witch manages to be both magical and funny alongside the clearly serious subject matter portrayed. Genuinely one of the most unique and interesting films of this year, I Am Not A Witch will hopefully strike a chord with audiences in Sheffield keen to experience something different and support new Black voices in film.

Another satirical treat for Sheffielders this week comes in the form of a Soviet scenario, The Death of Stalin, from British comedian and writer Armando Iannucci. Set during the last days of the dictator’s life and the confusion and conflict following his death, Iannucci’s latest is a star-studded affair that maintains the high standard of his brilliant work in TV and film, including political satire The Thick Of It.

The Death of Stalin includes some of Hollywood’s top talent, like Steve Buscemi and Jason Isaacs and Arrested Development’s Jeffrey Tambor, alongside British stars Andrea Riseborough, Paddy Considine, Paul Whitehouse and even Sheffield’s own Michael Palin.

A casting director has truly gone to town on this film and I’m sure everyone will be delighted with the results.