Based on the book, O DUGMETU I SREĆI by Jasminka Petrović, ZLOGONJE (THE WITCH HUNTERS) picked up the Young People’s Jury Award in Toronto for Best Feature Film (Ages 8-10) at its world premiere and deserves to do just as well here in the UK.
Not only is THE WITCH HUNTERS a wonderful family film overflowing with humour, adventure and friendship; it also has many important messages and themes that even adults can appreciate and be inspired by too.
Jovan (Mihajlo Milavic) and Milica (Silma Mahmuti) are a pair of imaginative ten-year olds who become friends when Milica joins Jovan’s school. Both of them have difficulties in their lives: Jovan has partial Cerebral Palsy, he is bullied by his classmates and also has to endure a tense home life. Milica’s parents are going through a divorce, her grandmother is cynical, and she is also being bullied. After the two of them become convinced that Milica’s new step-mother is a witch, they vow to save her father from the witch’s evil clutches.
The film sensitively and thoughtfully represents Jovan’s disability, and both lead characters are relatable and empowering as the two of them strive to be heroes and won’t allow their limitations to get in their way.
The film combines fantastical elements with reality to fully bring this child’s view of the world to life. There are marvellously magical moments peppered throughout; Jovan imagining himself as Shade, his original superhero creation. The scenes are enchanting and the use of darker colours contrast vividly with the frequent use of pastels and bright primary colours within the real world; suggesting the power within his thoughts.
Milavic and Mahmuti offer a stand out performance. Their characters are extremely well written and the two child-stars bring them both to life. At no point is there a lull in the narrative and it’s not long before you begin to forget that these characters are not real.
THE WITCH HUNTERS is an uplifting reminder of the daydreams we used to have as children, and an example of the imagination and creativity we all possess. An absolute triumph of a film.