WAR DANCE - one of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival Films this year - is an utterly riveting documentary that earned a lot of attention at Sundance this year; it's as dramatic as "Spellbound," as soulful as "Born Into Brothels," and as connected to truth as "Hearts & Minds." It takes place in the war torn northern part of Uganda where children have endured more than most of us can fathom. The film follows three students from the Patongo Primary School in the Patongo refugee camp, as their school prepares for the national dance competition, where they will compete with 20,000 schools. Rose is a singer, Dominic, a xylophone player, and Nancy, a dancer.
With dramatic and stunning HD cinematography by co-director and editor Sean Fine, directors Sean and Andrea Nix Fine begin the film at the end, as the children are returning home from the national competition. Then the scene flashes back to a month earlier when the students are still learning the dances. In between scenes of preparing for the competition, the three main characters tell their stories of horror and unspeakable brutality. They talk about atrocities they had never spoken about before.
Apparently the filmmakers went to Uganda to document the children's stories and just happened to be there during the competition. Lucky thing, because the joy the students derive from their participation reveals another important facet of their lives; the great happiness that is possible out of suffering. The students talk about how singing, playing music, and dancing makes them feel elated, like they felt before they witnessed war and had to leave their villages. Witnessing the transformative power of the arts is startling.
By the end, you feel as if you've been through an experience that has changed you forever. It is a privilege to get to know these children who we wouldn't otherwise have known.
From our safe and secure place in the world we get an intimate glimpse of what some of the rest of the world experiences. We also see adults caring for children, and investing their time to teach them. We witness how music and dance connects us and helps us come together. Most notably, in WAR DANCE, we see the astounding resilience of the human spirit.
WAR DANCE will be theatrically released by ThinkFilm in Fall 2007. For Movie Magazine, this is Joan Widdifield.
© 2007 - Joan K. Widdifield, Psy.D - Air Date: 2/28/07
Directed by Sean and Andrea Nix Fine