Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Taraji P Henson Thanks UK Fans for Illegally Streaming 'Empire' Which Led to Its Pickup + UK Reactions to the Show Taraji P Henson Thanks UK Fans for Illegally Streaming 'Empire' Which Led to Its Pickup + UK Reactions to the Show You Will Be Moved By the Atmospheric First Full Trailer for 'What Happened, Miss Simone?' You Will Be Moved By the Atmospheric First Full Trailer for 'What Happened, Miss Simone?' Wendell Pierce Will Play Clarence Thomas Opposite Kerry Washington's Anita Hill in HBO's 'Confirmation,' Directed by Rick Famuyiwa Wendell Pierce Will Play Clarence Thomas Opposite Kerry Washington's Anita Hill in HBO's 'Confirmation,' Directed by Rick Famuyiwa Crowdfund This: Feature Film, 'The Last Black Man in San Francisco' Crowdfund This: Feature Film, 'The Last Black Man in San Francisco' Interview: Black Masculinity in Comic Books with Jonathan Gayles Interview: Black Masculinity in Comic Books with Jonathan Gayles Viola Davis Is Developing a Harriet Tubman Biopic for HBO (She Will Star & Produce) Viola Davis Is Developing a Harriet Tubman Biopic for HBO (She Will Star & Produce) Indie Box Office: How Did the Queen Latifah Exec Produced Indie Drama 'Brotherly Love' Do? Indie Box Office: How Did the Queen Latifah Exec Produced Indie Drama 'Brotherly Love' Do? Watch Queen Latifah & Mo'Nique "Preach the Blues" is 4 Clips from 'Bessie' Watch Queen Latifah & Mo'Nique "Preach the Blues" is 4 Clips from 'Bessie' Watch 'Deadpan' - an Early Short Work by Steve McQueen Inspired by Buster Keaton Watch 'Deadpan' - an Early Short Work by Steve McQueen Inspired by Buster Keaton Watch: Luther - President Obama's Anger Translator - Makes an Appearance at the White House Correspondents' Dinner Watch: Luther - President Obama's Anger Translator - Makes an Appearance at the White House Correspondents' Dinner Here Are the Cities & Theaters in Which Patrik-Ian Polk's Award-Winning Drama 'Blackbird' Opens Today Here Are the Cities & Theaters in Which Patrik-Ian Polk's Award-Winning Drama 'Blackbird' Opens Today Scientific Accuracy in Film - Neil deGrasse Tyson Reacts to Negative Reactions to His Reviews of Science Fiction Films Scientific Accuracy in Film - Neil deGrasse Tyson Reacts to Negative Reactions to His Reviews of Science Fiction Films 'Chocolate City' Finally Gets a Trailer + Release Date Set (Might It Steal Some of 'Magic Mike's' Summer Thunder?) 'Chocolate City' Finally Gets a Trailer + Release Date Set (Might It Steal Some of 'Magic Mike's' Summer Thunder?) Barbie Is Honoring Ava DuVernay (and Other "Sheroes") With Her Very Own Doll. Have a Look... Barbie Is Honoring Ava DuVernay (and Other "Sheroes") With Her Very Own Doll. Have a Look... Apparently, Many of You Aren't Pleased With the "All-New" 'Single Ladies'... What's Going on? Apparently, Many of You Aren't Pleased With the "All-New" 'Single Ladies'... What's Going on? What to Expect in Season 2 of 'Empire' (Less Opulence; Spike Lee May Direct, Oprah May Guest-Star, More) What to Expect in Season 2 of 'Empire' (Less Opulence; Spike Lee May Direct, Oprah May Guest-Star, More) Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Buzzfeed Investigates Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Buzzfeed Investigates Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie...

Producers Of Oscar-Nominated 'War Witch' Pushing To Bring Star Rachel Mwanza To Hollywood

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act January 30, 2013 at 11:33AM

Producers Of Oscar-Nominated 'War Witch' Pushing To Bring Star Rachel Mwanza To Hollywood
2
Congolese Actress Rachel Mwanza w/ her Berlin Silver Bear Trophy For Best Actress For 'War Witch' ('Rebelle')
Congolese Actress Rachel Mwanza w/ her Berlin Silver Bear Trophy For Best Actress For 'War Witch' ('Rebelle')

You might recall my piece on director Kim Nguyen's struggles in getting financing and distribution for his dream-like, now Academy Award nominated (for Best Foreign Language Film) Congolese drama Rebelle (War Witch), because it stars an urecognizable black lead in young Rachel Mwanza, who gives a wonderfully naturalistic performance (she's a non-professional actor, and was practically living in the streets before she got the part) as 12 year old Komona.

And further, with the film enjoying success internationally throughout last year, some wondered whether Mwanza, who returned to the DRC, was seeing any of the rewards that her work in the film had attracted.

In response to that, director Nguyen said he helped set up a four-year program for the now-16-year-old, which includes getting her room and board, education and food in her hometown of Kinshasa; and when she's 18 years old, she'll get a small chunk of money so that she possibly invest in some land, or start a business. Nguyen added that the challenges for Mwanza in the DRC are great, and it's difficult for him to really manage from a distance (he lives in Canada), however, he has said that a friend in Kinshasa was helping to arrange for Mwanza's care there, despite the complicatios of the situation.

Mwanza became homeless after her parents left for Angola and abandoned her when she was even younger, and that's how she ended up living in the streets of Kinshasa.

And now the filmmaker is facing more hurdles, as he tries to bring Mwanza to Hollywood for the Academy Awards, since the film is nominated.

However, as noted in a revelation in the Canadian Press, there are some issues with getting her a USA visa, because American authorities are concerned that she'd remain in the USA illegally, and not return to the DRC.

“She’s very thrilled with just the idea of maybe seeing Beyonce or Rihanna on the red carpet,” producer Pierre Even says from Montreal.

“That’s her main goal in life. Hopefully one of these two singers will be at the Oscars so that she can get an autograph.”

All that depends on whether Mwanza can secure a U.S. visa.

Even says an application was filed late last week at the embassy in Kinshasa but that Mwanza also needs to undergo an interview with U.S. authorities to prove she won’t try to remain in the United States.

He hopes she can visit for about five days, noting that they plan on two days of post-Oscar interviews to promote Rebelle”s staggered release in the United States, which begins March 1.

After that, Even says they hope to bring Mwanza north of the border for more awards ceremonies including the Canadian Screen Awards in Toronto on March 3 and the Jutras in Montreal on March 17.

“We believe (that) is a good thing to reassure the U.S. authorities that she won’t stay in the U.S. because she’s coming with us to go to the Canadian Screen Awards,” he notes.

“She’s going to be at many award ceremonies in a few weeks.”

Mwanza also needs a visa to enter Canada but producer Marie-Claude Poulin says she doesn’t expect that to be a problem since the teen spent two months here last year when the film made its Canuck premiere.

Mwanza has also travelled to Berlin and Paris for other Rebelle screenings, which should help her American application, the producers add.

Give the girl a damn visa USA! Come on! Don't worry, she won't stay here and mooch off of *hard-working, tax-paying American citizens.* That's partly what the concern is, right? Let her enjoy those 5 days, or however long itll be, to reap some of the rewards of her hard work (she's the star of the movie, and is the engine that really makes it go).

In War Witch, we follow on a 3 year journey, starting with her kidnapping by rebels from an unnamed village in which she and her family live, to becoming a child soldier. She's branded a witch by the rebel leader after she survives an ambush that left the rest of the unit she was dispatched with, dead, and becomes something of a treasure to the leader, who believes she possesses magical powers he can exploit for his own protection. She eventually is able to escape from the camp with an older albino soldier who pledges his love for her, and seeks her hand in marriage, and, for the very first time, albeit for a short period of time, she experiences the simple joys of living a peaceful life; but unfortunately, none of that lasts, and she's soon thrust back into the madness she once fled.

Of course Mwanza still has to return to the DRC. It's not like there's a blossoming film industry there, like there is in the USA, which would give her options she doesn't currently have. Although DRC-based filmmakers with international appeal like Djo Tunda Munga should maybe take note.

But it's obviously a good thing that director Nguyen is involved in ensuring that she's taken care of (and I should add that this isn't exactly some global blockbuster movie that's raked in millions of dollars in box office, so it's not like money is flowing to be sent back to her regularly). But hopefully when it opens Stateside in March, it'll see some good returns.

Mwanza currently lives with fellow Rebelle actress Marie Dilou in Kinshasa, the producers say, and, as noted they've promised to pay for her education, room and board until she turns 18. What happens after that? Who knows.

The filmmakers first spotted her in a documentary on street kids in Kinshasa, and traveled to the city to meet her in person. That's how she got the part in their film.

She had an intensity that no other girls had and we decided to cast her at the time and she was living mostly on the streets,” Nguyen says of Mwanza.

And for her performance, she went on to win best actress awards at last year’s Berlin International Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival. We couldn't have two young black girls nominated for the Best Actress Oscar I suppose, so Quvenzhane Wallis got the nod. 

But I hope Mwanza gets her USA visa, and makes it to the Oscars next month. Maybe, in addition to getting autographs from Beyonce or Rihanna, she'll get to shake hands with Wallis too.

Read the full Canadian Press piece HERE.

This article is related to: Rachel Mwanza, War Witch (Rebelle)


Shadow & ActNewsletter