'WAR/DANCE' FINDS RIGHT BALANCE OF LIGHT, DARK.Byline: BOB STRAUSS
Husband-and-wife filmmakers Sean and Andrea Nix Fine break a lot of rules in "War/Dance" that good documentarians probably shouldn't.
The Uganda-set film goes for all kinds of lovely, "Out of Africa"-style visuals and snazzy snaz·zy
adj. snaz·zi·er, snaz·zi·est Slang
Fashionable or flashy.
snaz editing effects. When their main subjects -- adolescents who have either seen their relatives killed or been forced to commit murder themselves by the insane Lord's Resistance Army Noun 1. Lord's Resistance Army - a quasi-religious rebel group in Uganda that terrorized and raped women and kidnapped children who were forced to serve in the army rebel movement -- describe their trauma, they sometimes sound a little too rehearsed (or not enough), even in their tribal language. Certain scenes are impressionistically restaged versions of earlier events, usually with atmospheric conditions chosen to enhance the desired mood.
But you know what? Who cares? The core of this week's African catastrophe documentary is so simultaneously heartbreaking heart·break·ing
1. Causing overwhelming grief or distress.
2. Producing a strong emotional reaction: heartbreaking loveliness. and uplifting, you only want to thank the Fines for making it as engaging as they have.
Not to denigrate den·i·grate
tr.v. den·i·grat·ed, den·i·grat·ing, den·i·grates
1. To attack the character or reputation of; speak ill of; defame.
2. African docs that only focus on awfulness or dry statistics or nervous-laugh culture shock, but entertaining while never losing sight of the human and political issues that define its subjects' lives certainly feels like the best way to make us really care.
And say what you will about African kids singing and dancing, the movie leaves no doubt that through connecting with their traditional art forms, these abused children gain purpose, pride and precious joy. As one of them puts it, the rest of the world sees Africa mainly for its problems. We can't calculate how much it means to these young people to show us another side of their lives.
The film charts preparations at the vast, dangerous Patongo refugee camp in the war-plagued north to compete, for the first time, in the big National Music Competition in Kampala. Schools from all across Uganda, many from much safer and wealthier districts, vie for the national honors in the capital, and the displaced displaced
see displacement. Acholi kids from Patongo know they'll be looked down upon not only for having nothing but for reminding their countrymen of the troubles up north.
So they practice hard to be the best they can. And it's wonderful to watch a former boy soldier like Dominic, 14, come to master his homemade home·made
1. Made or prepared in the home: homemade pie.
2. Made by oneself.
3. Crudely or simply made.
Adj. 1. xylophone xylophone (zī`ləfōn) [Gr.,=wood sound], musical instrument having graduated wooden slabs that are struck by the player with small, hard mallets. The slabs are usually arranged like a keyboard, and the range varies from two to four octaves. .
But it's equally important to follow dancer Nancy, also 14 and self-controlled beyond her years because she has to do most of the caring for her younger siblings, to a very dark place: her murdered father's grave out in the bush, where she breaks down and is able, briefly, to cry like the child she still is.
What these kids have to live with is beyond horrible. The music and dancing is great. (If it hadn't been, the film would still get points for good intentions.)
"War/Dance" finds an excellent balance between dark and light. While the Fines make it as aesthetically and emotionally pleasing as they can, they don't seem to have sacrificed much in the way of reality.
Bob Strauss (818) 713-3670
WAR/DANCE - Three and one half stars
>PG-13: violence, language, children in jeopardy.
>Director: Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine.
>Running time: 1 hr. 45 min.
>Playing: Royal, West L.A..
>In a nutshell nut·shell
The shell enclosing the meat of a nut.
in a nutshell
In a few words; concisely: Just give me the facts in a nutshell.
Adv. 1. : Child victims of Uganda's civil war find purpose and pride in competing in the national dance competition. The documentary's manipulative ma·nip·u·la·tive
Serving, tending, or having the power to manipulate.
Any of various objects designed to be moved or arranged by hand as a means of developing motor skills or understanding abstractions, especially in , but who cares? It's a joy. In English and Acholi with English subtitles sub·ti·tle
1. A secondary, usually explanatory title, as of a literary work.
2. A printed translation of the dialogue of a foreign-language film shown at the bottom of the screen.
"War/Dance" takes an uplifting look at Uganda's young civil-war victims finding joy through a national dance competition.