Sunday, 31 August 2008

No.53 : War Dance

IMDb Link :

‘War Dance’ is an Oscar nominated documentary about the civil war in Uganda and, more specifically, about a group of children trying to win their National Music Championships despite their horrific ordeals.

Although it lost the Oscar to ‘Taxi to the Dark Side’, ‘War Dance’ was a worthy contender; possibly too worthy as it is heavy going. The film follows a group of mostly orphans who live in the town of Potongo, Northern Uganda. The children are introduced separately and they each talk to the camera in turn recounting their own experiences of the civil war.

All the tales are terrible with one young lad recounting the night he had to bludgeon a farmer to death with his hoe to save his own life. Others had similar treatments of kidnap and abuse. Juxtaposed against theses horrors were their present day trials in a government camp, such as one girl who was almost a slave to her bitch of an aunt.

All of the children have the same ambition - to win the regional qualifier so that the can go to the National Championship in Kampala. The road is long and arduous but with the help of some seasoned professionals they up their game and get to the big city. The contest is a major event and the kids feel marginalized as being from the north they are seen by some as inferior. Given what they have experienced it’s not surprising that they shrug off such slurs and put on a top show. Will it be enough to win the cup and heal their community at the same time?

This is a hard film to enjoy. The triumph of the human spirit is one thing but it’s depressing to hear so many horrific tales. It beggars belief that the government put so many resources into a song contest when rebels are freely raping and killing anyone they choose. Obviously the kids don’t mind as their focus and determination is admirable.

With the best will in the world I found it hard to enjoy the singing and dancing and when that is at least 50% of the film you know the marks are going to suffer. It’s not that the people aren’t talented, I’m sure they are, it’s just people yelling and stamping in endless similar songs isn’t my thing.

It would be churlish to say this film is nothing short of a triumph and the spirit and message of it can’t be ignored. I just didn’t really enjoy it. Sorry kids!

Best Bit : The grim tales were jaw-dropping

‘W’ Score 13/23

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