Friday, 17 February 2012

'Rebelle' Berlinale (Competition) review:

The final competition film screened to press at this year's Berlinale, African child soldier drama 'Rebelle' - being sold internationally as 'War Witch' - is a strong candidate for the Golden Bear, ticking many boxes. It's about a current real world social problem, shot beautifully, and difficult without being unpalatable. It blends social realism with poetic use of fantasy and visual metaphor. It also features a strong central performance from Rachel Mwanza - as the girl abducted by rebel soldiers, forced to shoot her parents, before being put on hallucinogenic drugs and sent out to fight government soldiers.

Writer-director Kim Nguyen's movie is also pretty tightly paced, without the aimless, naval-gazing demeanour which has been typical of so many at this year's festival. It has a definite narrative through-line. In fact I'd say this movie is among the most commercial films on show here, in terms of potential appeal outside of the so often wilfully oblique programme. Its chances of reaching a UK arthouse would be further improved if Mike Leigh's jury awards it Berlin's top film prize - as many journalists here seem to expect, judging by conversation after the screening. Personally I'd prefer to see 'Tabu', 'Just the Wind' or 'A Royal Affair' win the prize, but I wouldn't complain if 'Rebelle' were rewarded.

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