War/Dance

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Posted November 8, 2007 in Film

The kids of the Patongo displacement camp entrenched in northern Uganda’s war zone are trying to stomp and clap away the darkest memories of their childhood. Persecuted by the Lord’s Resistance Army, they’ve been abducted and orphaned; some forced to kill, while others made to watch as the rebels pulled their parents’ heads out of a cooking pot. Underdogs in their handmade uniforms and cobbled-together xylophones, harps, flutes, and pipes, Rose, Dominic, Nancy, and their friends are thrilled to make the two-day trek (under military guard) to capital city Kampala where in their feathers and beads, they’ll dance the bwola—the tribal dance of the Acholi. But Sean Fine and Andrea Nix have glossed their ugly stories to Hollywood perfection in this documentary that doesn’t so much read as a call to action against civil war violence but a standard kiddie-competition nailbiter directed by Douglas Sirk. Because no one dares to call a film about suffering children boring, Fine and Nix slack on analysis and investigation and concentrate on gorgeous saturated cinematography as though their buffet of crying kids served up for the western world’s guilty consumption first needed to be as colorful as a Jell-O salad. The only upside to their indulgent pans across Africa’s turquoise skies and red clouds is that it makes it easier to understand the Acholi’s enduring love for the homeland, despite the horrors lurking in the bush. (Amy Nicholson)


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