HANNAH BINNEY checks out some of the best films on show at Film Africa 2015, beginning with the world premiere of ‘The Cursed Ones’, a film tackling the issue of witchcraft. 

The Cursed Ones tells the story of an unsuccessful journalist, played by Oris Erhuero, sent to cover the local hunting festival in Mangalo, a remote West African village. Erhuero’s character, Godwin Ezeudu, finds his involvement in the town’s events becoming greater and greater. The development of a witch hunt in the community makes him no longer simply an observer to the events around him, but an integral part of the story.

Image courtesy of bbc.co.uk

Far more than just providing a narrative thread through his audio recorder diary, the use of an outsider as a narrator is effective in underlining how serious and real the practice of witch hunts is. At the beginning of the film, Godwin arrives in Mangalo ignorant to the ways of village life, asking if there is a hotel nearby to stay in. He makes judgments about the remoteness of the community by describing how he finds his way to the bar, the centre of everything, but which really “didn’t mean much round here”. As Godwin becomes more involved in events, he realises he is not as untouchable as he believes himself to be.

Shot on location in Ghana, The Cursed Ones gives a beautiful visual portrait of the community of Mangalo. A clear contrast can be seen between the energy and life of the community and its suspicion and fear. This is echoed beautifully by the dark colour shots of the rain and the cloudy sky, alongside colourful shots of the schoolyard, the community’s festival, the houses and the forest landscape around them.

Image courtesy of okayafrica.com

The Cursed Ones reveals the community’s terrible passivity and susceptibility to the ideas of their older pastor, who accuses a village girl of witchcraft in an attempt to explain the misfortune that the village has been suffering from. The real tragedy is that the ‘witch’ is mute, perhaps explaining in part her social rejection. The accused’s inability to speak also highlights the nature of the witch hunt as an adult activity, wherein the young victim has neither influence over the events occurring around her nor, even, her own fate.

The film, based on the 2009 documentary Saving Africa’s Witch Children, has more than a fictional message. The practice of witch hunts is prevalent in rural African communities today and The Cursed Ones seeks to expose and campaign against this practice. This political piece highlights this terrible malpractice with a visually impressive, well-acted and compelling narrative.

‘The Cursed Ones’ has its world premiere at the Hackney Picturehouse on Friday 6 November at 6:30pm.