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USA 2007
Directed by
Sean Fine / Andrea Nix Fine
107 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

War Dance

Shot in 2005, War Dance explores the healing role of music in the lives of children traumatised by a civil war that has been going on in Northern Uganda for two decades. It won the documentary directing prize at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and understandably so as it movingly contrasts the horrific experiences of three children in particular with inspirational power of music as they partake in a national music competition.

As seems so common in Africa, Northern Uganda has been terrorized by a rebel army, the Lord's Resistance Army who have raided farm communities, killing the men, making sex slaves out of the women and abducting some 30,000 schoolchildren and forcing them to be soldiers. The three children, members of the peaceful Acholi tribe, who are the focus of the documentary have not only either lost one or both parents but in the case of Dominic, have been forced to murder innocent people in cold blood. The children relate their own stories, husband and wife team, Sean and Andrea Nix Fine letting the sadness in their faces and voices stand for the collective sorrow and our own imaginations to conjure up the brutality of their experiences without giving any explanation of the political and social context of the civil war.

This aspect of the film is interwoven with the children’s efforts to make it to the annual National Music Competition, held in Kampala. This is a common device but one that works well to structure the film and imbue the overall notion of healing with a manifest form. Whereas related documentaries both also released in 2007, The Devil Came On Horseback and Shake Hands With The Devil, which dealt with the Sudanese and Rwandan genocides respectively, were devastating in their confrontational approach leaving one feeling helpless at the inhumanity of man, War Dance actually gives one belief in the possibility of overcoming it, and that has to be a good thing.




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