War Dance (Sean and Andrea Fine, 2007): USA

wardance.pngAnother great film to see! Wonderful scenery in Africa amid horrid violence – which is downplayed. Hearing the stories, however, makes it seem more horrible than is actually depicted because your imagination goes wild.

This film is just like another one that I loved in this festival, called “Autism – the Musical”. The theme is very similar and instrestingly, the structure is also. They both center around children with problems, in this case children brutalized by the violence all around them and being forced into the “child armies”. Some of the children are so terrorized that they have nightmares and all kinds of mental stresses.

At the camp where they live along with 5O,OOO other people, for the first time ever, someone – it wasn’t clear who – was able to get them to practice to compete in the national dance festival. So the kids practice their dances, songs and instrumentals. As might be expected, there is a tremendous effort on their part to stick with their commitment to be in the competition. Someone sends a professional dance teacher from one of their tribes to teach them in the technique of precision performance. What the children discover is that the music takes them away from their personal trauma. It becomes a relief, an escape for the moment, from their problems. They also find out that in the process of being involved in the competition, they learn skills and confidence in themselves they didn’t know they had.

Where the structure is the same as “Autism the Musical”, is that the timeline to the performance is intercut with the stories of the children. Both films have children with severe problems; both films have musical performances by the chilren, and both use music to overcome their difficulties. Both also are wonderfully uplifting to the human spirti!

War Dance also has similarities to another film in the festival about abused children – Beautiful Bitch. The titles have just 2 words and they are opposites. The theme has opposites: War against the children and the Dance that heals them. Beautiful is the fortitude of the street kids that holds them together (heals), and “Bitch” used against the main character by her mean “friend”.

Nominated for Best Documentary Feature in this year’s Oscars, it has also won at Sundance and Wisconsin Film Festivals in that same field and for Best Cinematography at Jackson Hole Film Festival in 2007.

Sean Fine has worked for a number of years in television as cinematographer, producer and writer. This is the first film he has directed, and has done a great job of it along with his wife, Andrea. Andrea Fine has worked for the past 10 years or so as writer,producer, produciton manager, post production coordinatore and cinematographer, mostly for television.

Asche & Spencer put the music together, composing some of it. Reel World Music supplied most of it. Reel World Music appears to create soundtracks out of certain types of music. So they must have composed many tracks for this movie. They sounded very African to my ear and wonderfully exilerating.

I highly recommend this movie.

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