Congolese teen actress gets U.S. visa to walk Oscar red carpet

LOS ANGELES Fri Feb 22, 2013 5:05am IST

Congo's actress Rachel Mwanza gives a speech after she receives the Silver Bear award for the best actress from actor Jake Gyllenhaal during the awards ceremony at the 62nd Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 18, 2012. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Congo's actress Rachel Mwanza gives a speech after she receives the Silver Bear award for the best actress from actor Jake Gyllenhaal during the awards ceremony at the 62nd Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 18, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The teenage star of the Oscar-nominated Canadian drama "War Witch" will get to travel from her native Congo to the Academy Awards in Los Angeles after she received a last-minute visa, the film's U.S. distributor said on Thursday.

Amateur actress Rachel Mwanza, 16, who grew up an orphan on the streets of capital Kinshasa, received her visa to the United States earlier in the week and will arrive in Los Angeles on Friday, two days ahead of Sunday's Oscar ceremony, a spokeswoman for distributor Tribeca Film said.

The French-language film is nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at Hollywood's annual Academy Awards.

"To have her (Mwanza's) journey end on the red carpet is beyond anything she could have dreamed of," director Kim Nguyen said in a statement.

Mwanza will also visit Canada in the coming weeks for the Canadian Screen Awards and Quebec's Jutra Award for Francophone cinema in March.

"War Witch," set in sub-Saharan Africa, focuses on Mwanza's character Komona, who at the age of 12 is forced by anti-government rebels to kill her parents and fight as a child soldier.

Mwanza won Best Actress awards at the Berlin and Tribeca film festivals last year for the role.

The film, titled "Rebelle" in French, touches on family, love and the possibility of finding happiness after years of trauma and war and has been praised by critics for its poignancy and sensitivity. (Reporting by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Jill Serjeant and Eric Walsh)

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