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[Tribeca ’24] ‘Witches’ review: Deeply personal and powerful look at what it’s like to be a witch

Where there are many women, there are many witches.

Witches is not the type of documentary most people will be expecting. Making its world premiere at Tribeca, the film is a deeply personal look at motherhood in particular and being a woman in general. Filmmaker Elizabeth Sankey reflects back on her own pregnancy, the birth of her child, and how it all ties together with her lifelong love of one of cinema’s most enduring characters.

Sankey uses a number of clips to illustrate what she wants to convey. While there are scenes from The Witches of Eastwick and The Witch, there are also scenes from less witch-centric movies like A Nightmare on Elm Street and even Three Men and a Baby. Witches uses a wide range to tell Sankey’ story.

The story is a powerful one that touches on themes that may surprise audiences. While there are the talking head interviews that would be expected, this is very much Sankey’s story. Not only is she the narrator, much of the opening is spent with her telling her story directly to the camera.

Witches is an emotionally heavy watch.

It becomes clear early on that Witches is going to be an emotionally heavy watch. Much of the talk is centered around postpartum depression. The cases are discussed in detail and, in some cases, for the first time. The term “stigma” is used a lot and each time it resonates. The guilt and shame felt can be seen on the faces of the women interviewed.

The portrayal of witches is an underlying theme until about an hour when the film really drives home the point. Discussing real life cases involving women who were convicted of being witches, the documentary draws the parallel between confessing to being a witch and the idea of being a “bad mother”. Everything up to now has led to this moment. It is striking and sad and will leave a lasting impact on everyone who watches it.

Tribeca Festival takes from June 5 – June 16. The full lineup can be found HERE.

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