War Dance (Sean Fine, Andrea Nix, 2007): USA
This film is pleasure to write about. This is the kind of film that audience stands up at the end clapping. While it is done in the documentary style, the film rose to a higher level than most documentaries in that it kept the narrative alive and well. Striving for realism and achieving it in documentaries are two different things. Most documentaries interview people in the standard mode, standing ten feat back and no movement as the natives are interviewed. The difference is that most of what people say is banal and boring even for the well educated. So it there that this film may have lost us but it did not. I eagerly waited on every line that the young people had to say about their situation past and present.
The film covers a tribe of Africans that live in the northern most part of Uganda where the revolutionary rebels are at their strongest. This tribe is called the Acholi of which two million have had to leave their homes and 200,000 children have their parents. These rebels have come in the night and taken their parent and killed them and taken the kids into to custody to be trained as child solders. The children’s stories are all horrific as they recount tale of pulling the deactivated heads of their parents out of a pot. There are many other horrid tales. In order to combat their angst over all the carnage they are participating in a national sing and dance competition in the nations Capital, Kampala. They practice long and hard doing the traditional Acholi dance. They feel a great sense of pride. It is the only time that they can get away from the pain of their existence.
Instructors from Kampala come to visit and teach the children how to sing and dance and possibly win the competition. The tribe has never been able to enter the contest before because of lack of money not because of lack of skill. They trained every day and for hours. In a way this film is an eye opener and also a feel good movie. For at the end good things happen to the Acholi children.
Tight shot of the children eyes as they recount their horrid tales was very powerful. The eye conveyed strength but also amazing amounts of sorrow as they would look straight ahead not moving their eyes at all. In this regard the eyes all looked the same. When the children recount their stories in their own language, with their own rhythm and cadence the effect is moving emotional. What they had to say was succinct and to the point, to this we may owe some of our thanks to the director and editor.
This film couples the very worse of man kind with the very best.
From the ashes of death or worse comes the strength of love and tenderness conveyed through dance and music. The music indigenous to the Acholi make the kids rise up with pride. At least for a moment in time these kids can let go of their suffering and be free to feel happy if only for a few second or the length of a song.