What do you say about a boy whose mother had to pick up and bury the butchered remains of his father? Or a kid who confesses to murder, having been forced into a militia? Over the past few years, movies have spotlighted atrocities in Rwanda, Somalia and Sudan. Add now to the list Uganda, a country torn apart by civil war for more than 20 years and the setting for the heartbreaking, life-affirming War/Dance.
Married filmmakers Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine personalize such unfathomable suffering by focusing on three children in northern Uganda. Their homes and families rent asunder, and living in the uneasy limbo of a displaced-persons camp, this trio finds community and inspiration at school, where the faculty encourages the students to enter a nationwide music, dance and drama festival with more than 5,000 participants annually.
The competition becomes a rallying cry for the youths, who meet indifference and even resistance from older, chore-oriented guardians. Their talent for performing becomes their ticket to opportunity, as they travel 200 miles over two days to Kampala, a modernized city spared the ravages of the northern conflict. “I’m excited to see what peace looks like,” says one child—a statement as matter-of-fact in tone as it is devastating in sentiment.