Review of War/Dance directed by Sean and Andrea Fine
Rating *** 1/2
This is the story of a group of African refugees and their attempt to compete in a national music and dance competition. At least that is the thread that weaves through the film. A more accurate description is that this is a film about the struggles of Africans both young and old in war-torn northern Uganda. The focus of the film is on three young refugees: Dominic, Rose, and Nancy.
Anyone who pays even a little attention to the world around them knows of the suffering going on in places like Somalia, Uganda, Darfur, and Rwanda. I learned more after reading the book A Long Way Gone, a memoir by Ishmael Beah. Films like Hotel Rwanda and Darfur Now have also brought attention to the plight of the hundreds of thousands of people caught between the rebel fighters and the various military factions. This film takes it to a more personal level.
The structure of the film is to alternate between the preparations for the competition and the individual stories of Dominic, Rose, and Nancy. All three have suffered the loss of one or both of their parents at the hands of rebels. They are forced to live in a government camp. The individual stories are heart wrenching. The filmmakers wisely use the dance competition as a way to bring hope and balance to a film that easily could have been unbearable to watch.
I can't say that there is one story that is more heartbreaking than the others. They are equally heartbreaking. But the hardest part of the film for me personally was watching Nancy grieve for her father at his makeshift grave site.
After reading Ishmael Beah's book, I knew that it was possible for someone who has experienced unspeakable horrors and depravity to rise above it and accomplish great things. The people in this film are just as capable of great accomplishments if given the tools and the opportunity. Hopefully, if enough people see films like this they will find it in themselves to help those less fortunate.
The DVD had a few extras such as extended scenes, but no audio commentary.