The opening moments of “War Witch” plunge us straight into the inferno. A band of rebel soldiers assaults a remote village in central Africa, searching for child conscripts for their army. They grab a 12-year-old named Komona (Rachel Mwanza), stick a rifle in her hands, and order her to kill her parents. If she refuses, they’ll do the job with machetes. The girl’s father gazes at her and silently gives his permission.
Where can a movie go that begins with a trauma this all-consuming and a loss this complete? “War Witch” deals with a reality so horrific that the film’s touches of magical realism are welcome, even necessary — the only way to retain one’s bearings and sanity in a world without signposts. Originally titled “Rebelle” (director Kim Nguyen is based in Montreal and the film was Canada’s foreign-language Oscar nominee this year), the movie is grim yet clear-eyed, and it seeks out glimmers of hope in individual resilience and in the connections that bind us together.