CFS: ‘War Dance’ studies dual nature of war in Uganda

Megan Hansler

“War Dance” is a story of both the horrors of war and the joy of dance. While the name “War Dance” may evoke images of painted warriors preparing for battle, this award-winning documentary tells the story of children living in northern Uganda

Sean Fine and Andrea Nix, the co-directors of this poignant and powerful documentary. use stunning cinematography to show how war and dance are a part of these children’s lives.

Surrounded by 24-hour military protection in the Patongo refugee camp, war is ever-present. However, the danger of living in a war-zone is not enough to stop the children from traveling to the city of Kampala to do one thing: dance. 

After filming at the Patongo camp for three months, Fine and Nix were prepared to make a documentary about children dancing and making it to the big city to compete and win.

 But this is not the documentary they made. Though the film is about the children’s dance competition, the heart of “War Dance” is found in each child’s devastating story of war. 

For the past 20 years, children in Uganda have been kidnapped by oppositionist Lord’s Resistance Army and forced to fight in the war against the government. 

Speaking about his own experience being exploited by this terrorist group, a boy named Dominic said, “It’s difficult for people to believe our story. But if we don’t tell you, you won’t know.”

 It is through “War Dance” that Dominic and the other children tell their heartbreaking stories. 

It is also through “War Dance” that the children’s dancing tells: a story of happiness and hope.

Revealing the horrors and sadness of the children’s history, while also illustrating the joy and spirit of their dance, was a difficult balance to achieve, but Fine and Nix accomplished it beautifully.

 Their skill in directing “War Dance” was recognized by the Sundance Film Festival in 2007 with the Documentary Directing Award. 

Hezekiah Lewis, who will be leading a discussion following the Connelly Center Cinema’s Monday evening screening, is not only a professor in the communication department at Villanova, but also an experienced filmmaker. 

He received his MFA in Directing from UCLA’s prestigious film school and has been very successful in the film festival circuit. 

For his thesis, Lewis filmed on-location in Ghana, Africa to tell the story of a Ghanaian queen who bravely led her people in battle against the British in the early 1900s. 

In some ways the struggles portrayed in Lewis’ film, Warrior Queen, can be compared to the adversities faced by the children in “War Dance.”

The next offering in the Cultural Film & Lecture Series, “I Know a Place,” “War Dance” will be shown four times in the Connelly Center Cinema: Saturday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m.; Sunday, Feb. 14 at 3:30 and 7 p.m.; and Monday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. 

Admission is free for students with ID from any academic institution and $5 for all others