I Am Not A Witch, Film 4, Tuesday, 11.40pm

Born in Zambia, raised in Wales and educated at boarding school in England, Rungano Nyoni deploys oodles of film school nous as she puts her African heritage under the spotlight in this breathtakingly original film, which screened in the Directors’ Fortnight strand of the 2017 Cannes Film Festival and went on to win its young director a BAFTA the following year. Surreal and satirical are the words most often applied – both are appropriate – and Nyoni brings a touch of magical realism to proceedings as well. At times you could be watching something by Federico Fellini or rumbustious Serbian director Emir Kusturica, though in terms of gender politics Nyoni digs considerably deeper than either of those men.

Our heroine is a nameless young girl, played by newcomer Maggie Mulubwa, who appears one day in a village in rural Zambia and, after a series of strange occurrences there, is dragged to the local police station and accused of being a witch by the locals. Such events aren’t uncommon in sub-Saharan Africa, which is what gives I Am Not A Witch its weight, but taking that reality and stretching it Nyoni fashions the satirical premise which drives her film: the girl is brought to the attention of Mr Banda (Henry BJ Phiri), a corpulent, pompous, self-serving government minister with responsibility for “traditional beliefs”, who uses a medicine man and a chicken to determine that she really is a witch and then takes her to an officially-sanctioned witch camp where a group of (mostly) elderly women are attached to enormous spindles by ribbons fixed to their backs. This is supposedly to stop them flying away. The women give the girl the name Shula.

As well as being a lucrative visitor attraction (the film opens with a bunch of tourists rocking up to take pictures of the witches in their camp) Mr Banda hires out his charges as agricultural labourers and as arbiters in disputes. At one point Shula is asked to pick out a thief from a line up and is rewarded for her efforts with a bottle of booze and some food, which she takes back to her new “family”.

Exploitation, superstition, the role of women, childhood, the patriarchy – it’s all here in this remarkable film, though what it makes so startling to watch is Nyoni’s image-making. When Mr Banda proudly announces that he has secured the witches a truck, we’re treated to the bizarre sight of the witches, their spindles and their ribbons cluttering up the back of an orange low-loader. It’s like the weirdest carnival float you’ve ever seen. Elsewhere the regular close-ups of Shula’s inscrutable face, the dusty Zambian scrubland and the witches’ makeshift camp of bleached-out tree branches and sheets – not to mention the ever-present ribbons - give I Am Not A Witch a powerful visual flavour that’s impossible to forget.

Fanny Lye Deliver’d, Curzon Home Cinema

Now streaming

Ready for a Western set in mid-17th century Shropshire in the years after the English Civil War? British director Thomas Clay certainly hopes so. He sets his action in a timbered farmhouse with a thatched roof surrounded by mist-shrouded English landscapes but apart from that you could be in the Wild West of lawless gun-slingers and hard-scrabble ranchers with a Bible in one hand and an axe in the other. Adding to the feel is a soundtrack which makes clear nods to the scores of any number of 1950s Westerns.

Maxine Peake is the titular Fanny, wife of John Lye (Charles Dance), a soldier-turned-farmer some years her senior, and mother to young Arthur Lye (Zak Adams). Her life is one of endless work, sermons from her pious husband, the occasional beating and weekly visits to church. Into this world come two naked interlopers, Rebecca (Tanya Reynolds) and Thomas (Freddie Fox). They claim to be a married couple who were attacked on the road and robbed of all their possessions, but when John says he’ll take them to see the local Constable they seem oddly reluctant. Narrated by Rebecca as she looks back on events (there’s another Western trope to conjure with) Clay’s film isn’t without its flaws, but there are fine performances from Peake and Dance, and its underlying theme of female empowerment gives it plenty of cultural oomph.