War Dance is a glossy looking documentary about the hardships of a group of children trapped in the middle of a war-zone in northern Uganda. Using a contrived musical/dance competition to link a narrative, the film’s main purpose is to bring the horrifying back-stories to the big screen.
The kid’s heartbreaking stories are told with scripted voice over mood visual reenactments. It would be hard to find a soul who wouldn’t tear up inside listening to these stories. But in the end they are only stories. Beautifully cut talking head segments. The only real time narrative involves the kid’s trip to the city to compete against 20,000 other schools in the big musical competition (which they claim is the biggest competition of it’s kind). But a stupid music competition seems so miniscule and insignificant compared to the kid’s terrifying lives.
The breathtaking cinematography is where the film truly shines. This is also part of why the movie never truly succeeds. The visuals are almost too perfect, the situations at times seem contrived and premeditated to a sickening degree. It’s as if the filmmakers wrote the movie they envisioned and than filmed it. Because spending a year with the kids may have been too much work, time investment and cost.
I understand that music and war dance is a long melted into the Acholi tribe’s culture. But the juxtaposition of the story just doesn’t feel right.
War Dance is Mad Hot Ballroom set in the world of Sally Struther’s “Save the children” commercials. If you want to feel bad about how the rest of the world may be living, this is the film to see. If you’re smart enough to realize that a golden trophy will never fix these kids problems, then you may prefer the next movie.
/Film Rating: 6 out of 10
Directed by: Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine
Running Time: 105 minutes
Rating: Not Yet Rated by the MPAA