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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

War Dance (review)

Kids are kids the world over: it sounds so obvious, even banal, to simply say it, but seeing the compelling and haunting — and rousing — evidence that that is true even for kids in the worst possible circumstances is a sharp reminder that we all share more than we don’t. It’s easily forgotten, it seems, in a war zone like northern Uganda, destroyed by decades of rebel warfare, where acclaimed American documentary filmmakers Sean Fine and Andrea Nix met Rose, Dominic, and Nancy, all in their early teens, all living in a remote, desperately poor refugee camp (it lacks even electricity and running water), all shattered by atrocities they’ve suffered in the war… all on their way to compete in the prestigious National Music Competition, far away in prosperous and peaceful Kampala, the Ugandan capital. You’ve never met underdogs like these before: the team from the Patongo camp, which includes many other children, may be merely out to win a contest, but their enthusiasm and dedication in the face of unassailable odds is more than inspiring, more than infectious: it’s almost unbelievable. These kids are amazing in the most literal sense of the word, and you will never forget them. Winner of the documentary directing award at Sundance 2007 (among many other festival awards), War Dance is now an Oscar nominee for best documentary feature, and it’s still opening in arthouses around the country (go here for dates and cities). Don’t miss it.

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watch at home

MPAA: rated PG-13 for some thematic material involving descriptions of war atrocities

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb

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