BAFTA winner I Am Not a Witch selected as the UK’s Best Foreign-language Oscar entry
by Kaleem Aftab
- Rungano Nyoni's debut feature is Britain’s strongest contender for a number of years
The winner of a BAFTA Film Award for Outstanding Debut by a Writer, Director or Producer, Rungano Nyoni's I Am Not a Witch [+see also:
interview: Rungano Nyoni
film profile], has been selected as the British submission for the Best Foreign-language Film category of the prestigious American Academy Awards. The UK has been making a habit in recent years of nominating in this category, as any picture that is not predominantly in the English language is eligible. I Am Not a Witch is told mainly in Bemba (a Bantu language of Zambia) as well as some English.
Starring Maggie Mulubwa and Henry BJ Phiri, the comedy-drama tells the story of eight-year-old Shulu, who is accused of being a witch and is exiled to a camp for witches in the Zambian desert. Zambian-born director Rungano Nyoni is a British filmmaker based in Wales.
The film premiered at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, in the Directors’ Fortnight section. The UK-French co-production was financed by the BFI, Film4, Ffilm Cymru Wales, the CNC, the Berlinale’s World Cinema Fund and HBF+Europe: Minority Co-production Support. On two previous occasions, the UK has selected films that have gone on to receive nominations in the Best Foreign-language category, Hedd Wyn in 1993 and Solomon and Gaenor in 1999, both of which are in the Welsh language.
Producer Eve Gabereau said she was "thrilled for the film, the team, and especially Rungano. It is a story that seems to stay with people and resonate over time. After the honour of the BAFTA win, the Oscar nod is overwhelming - and very exciting. And hopefully it's a sign that original storytelling and strong vision do matter!"
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