Titled in English as War Witch, Nguyen was the first Canadian director in 13 years in Official Competition at the Berlin International Film Festival. The film's lead, the young Congolese actress Rachel Mwanza, won the Silver Bear for Best Actress and the movie also picked up a Special Mention from the Ecumenical Jury. The film also shone at the Tribeca Film Festival, winning awards for Best Narrative Feature and Best Actress. Shot entirely on location in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rebelle depicts the brutal reality of child soldiers.
"Over the last two years, Canada has performed exceptionally well in the competition for the celebrated Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, with three nominated films—Monsieur Lazhar, Incendies and In Darkness," said Carolle Brabant, Executive Director of Telefilm Canada. "We are proud that Kim Nguyen's War Witch, which has been sold in more than 25 territories, is representing Canada and we are confident that it will win over the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences."
Rebelle, which screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and opens in Toronto on Friday, was funded by the Canada Feature Film Fund. Produced by Pierre Even and Marie-Claude Poulin of the production company Item 7, the film is distributed in Canada by Mongrel Media, in Quebec by Métropole Films and in the United States by Tribeca Films. This marks the second time that Pierre Even has seen one of his films selected to represent Canada in the Oscar race. In 2006, Jean-Marc Vallée's C.R.A.Z.Y. was Canada's pick for the 78th annual Academy Awards.
"After 10 years in development and a production marked by many adventures that have provided me with everlasting memories of the Congo and its people, this recognition warms my heart, " said Kim Nguyen when Telefilm called him with the good news. "It was truly a team effort and this recognition is sincerely shared with everyone who worked on this film, from the writing, to the creation and production, as well as with all our financial partners who believed in us despite the risks."
Sixty-five countries will submit their top film for consideration as a possible Best Foreign Language Film nominee to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Only one film per country is accepted, and the selected film must have been produced outside the United States, be primarily in a language other than English, and have been shown in a movie theatre for at least seven consecutive days in its country of origin between October 1, 2011, and September 30, 2012. The Academy then votes to choose five films to be nominated in the category.
In the history of the Oscars, seven Canadian films have been nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar: Philippe Falardeau's Monsieur Lazhar and Agnieszka Holland's In Darkness, in 2011; Denis Villeneuve's Incendies, in 2010; Deepa Mehta's Water, in 2006; and three films by Denys Arcand: Le Déclin de l'empire américain (The Decline of the American Empire) in 1986, Jésus de Montréal (Jesus of Montreal) in 1989, and Les Invasions barbares (The Barbarian Invasions), which won the coveted award for 2003.