A few years ago, Rachel Mwanza was fending for herself on the streets of Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; this week, the 16-year-old actress will be in attendance at Hollywood's biggest night.
Mwanza, star of the film "War Witch," has been granted a visa to travel to the U.S. and Canada to attend various award shows, including the Academy Awards, where the Canadian production is nominated for best foreign-language film. (The film is in French and Lingala.)
"War Witch," directed by Kim Nguyen, tells the story of Komona (played by Mwanza), a girl kidnapped by rebel soldiers and enslaved into a life of guerrilla warfare in the African jungle. The film was shot entirely in the DRC in 2011 and features many first-time young actors, including Mwanza.
"Rachel's story is truly a Cinderella tale — abandoned by her family and living on the streets as a child, her life has been transformed by the making of the film," Nguyen said in a statement released by Tribeca Film. "To have her journey end on the red carpet is beyond anything she could have dreamed of."