Looks like it’s going to be another gorgeous day, but try to find some time during it to catch the 4 pm screening of WAR/DANCE, husband-and-wife team Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine’s moving and uplifting documentary about children from war-torn northern Uganda who compete in a country-wide music and dance competition.
These kids are refugees in their own land. They’ve survived displacement, the murder of parents. The boys are caught and captured to join the hundreds of thousands of child soldiers in the rebel militia group, the Lord’s Resistance Army.
The directors focus on three children – Rose, Nancy and Dominic – and you can see the trauma etched on their faces and defiant/defeated poses. Rose, an orphan who lives a Dickensian existence under a bossy aunt, is so distraught she can barely speak – her breathy voice-over narration is gut-wrenching.
A handful of music teachers come to ready the group for competition, which involves about 8 categories, from Western Choir and Original Composition to traditional dance.
Dominic is a natural musician, a prodigy who plays a wooden xylophone that keeps falling apart. He gets the most camera time, notably in one sequence, where he goes to visit a captured rebel and asks whether the soldier knew Dominic’s missing brother. It’s an unforgettable scene, full of tenderness and closure.
Once the kids take the 200 mile, 2 day trip (under military escort) to Kampala it becomes a different film entirely, but no less gripping. The kids find themselves discriminated against because they’re from the north; their simple costumes and outfits look drab next to the more prosperous schools’ bright, shiny ones; they’re awestruck by the big buildings and traffic.
Children finding inspiration and direction through art is a can’t-miss premise. Think of Spellbound or Mad Hot Ballroom. War/Dance makes those other films seem almost trivial. It’s closer in spirit to Born Into Brothels. No surprise, then that ThinkFilm, the company that released BIB, has also picked it up for distribution.
If you can’t wait til it’s released in theatres, go to today’s screening or the repeat on Monday 1 pm. Both at the Isabel Bader.