EXCLUSIVE: Rungano Nyoni wraps Zambia-set satire; Embrace Of The Serpent’s David Gallego is DoP.
Principal photography has wrapped on satire I Am Not A Witch, the debut feature from Welsh-Zambian filmmaker Rungano Nyoni, who was previously BAFTA-nominated for short Mwansa The Great.
The present day African satire about beliefs in witchcraft, revolves around a nine year old girl, Shula, who is accused of being a witch. Shula is the first child to be taken to a travelling witch camp, where she is tethered to a spool with a ribbon. She is told that should she cut the ribbon and attempt to escape, she will be cursed and transformed into a goat.
Forced to decide whether to accept her fate as a witch, Shula ignites a rebellion within the camp.
The film shot for six weeks in Zambia’s capital Lusaka and the rural areas around it, and features a cast of non-professional actors, led by nine year-old Maggie Mulubwa in the lead role of Shula (pictured in the first image from the film).
The UK-French co-production is financed by the BFI, Film4, Ffilm Cymru Wales, Aide aux Cinémas du Monde (CNC-Institut français), the Berlinale’s World Cinema Fund and HBF+Europe. Soda has come on board for UK distribution.
Producers are Emily Morgan for Soda Pictures, Juliette Grandmont for Clandestine Films and Titus Kreyenberg for Unafilm. Executive producers are Eve Gabereau (Soda Pictures), Mary Burke (BFI), Hannah Thomas (Ffilm Cymru Wales), and Eva Yates and Daniel Battsek (Film4).
David Gallego (Oscar-nominated for Embrace Of The Serpent) is the film’s director of photography, the production designer is Nathan Parker, costume designer is Holly Rebecca (The Incident, also stylist to Solange Knowles), and George Cragg (The Yard) is the film’s editor.
Among development backers for the film were also Cannes Cinefondation Residency 2013, Moulin D’Ande Residency 2014, IFP No Borders Prize 2013, ARTE Prize 2014, Vision Sud Est Development Funding via Locarno Film Festival and HBF Development support.
The film is the second announced project to be executive-produced by Film4 boss Daniel Battsek following the official announcement of American Animals during the AFM.
Producer Morgan commented: “It has been exciting seeing Rungano deliver on her truly original script with such emotive visual flare and her unique blend of fantasy and realism, amidst a variety of captivating Zambian landscapes. Like in her short film work, she’s bringing the story to life with remarkable performances from a cast of carefully selected non-actors.”
Nyoni was born in Lusaka, Zambia and grew up in Wales. Her short films have screened at more than 400 festivals including Cannes, Toronto, Rotterdam, BFI London Film Festival, Locarno and Tribeca. 2011 short Mwansa the Great, which was part financed by Focus Features’ Africa First programme, earned nominations for an African Academy Award and a BAFTA.