Led by an expressive, understated performance from Rachel Mwanza, War Witch is the visceral story of a young girl, Komona, in sub-Saharan Africa, whose existence is shaken up by the arrival of a rebel army in her village. Over 90 minutes, we watch Komona try to reassemble what she can of a stable, happy life. She fumbles around, trying to pick up the pieces, but she's waylaid by warfare, distracted by romance, and not yet of an age where she's able to see that those pieces aren't even there to be picked up any more. Komona is forced to grow up fast, when her mind and body are only beginning adolescence - she can't keep the pace of the world around her, dominated by macho young men, obsessed with power, in a social climate governed by the gun. She learns a lot, yet understands little. The only sense she is able to make of this cruel life is that it's the only one she's got, and her will to survive can see her through. Mwanza gives an powerful, enigmatic performance; she's capable of expressing through feeling, and keeps the theatrics to a minimum. When she cries, or screams, or laughs, the emotion emerges, fleetingly, from within the childlike, inquisitive stoicism, and is quite stirring in its realism. She is an actor of notable natural prowess. Director Kim Nguyen embellishes the powerful story with unexpected sensorial flair, displaying an eye for indelible imagery that doesn't overwhelm the material. There's a midway lull, but Rachel Mwanza remains most compelling throughout, and contributes enormously to a memorable film.