War Dance

War Dance is a heart-rending, yet uplifting documentary that follows the lives of three children of war in northern Uganda, subjected to the types of horrors most people only read about.  Caught between the Ugandan government and the rebel force, the Lord’s Resistance Army, this is a very human look into how they have tried to move on with the lives in the midst of a war zone.  The school they attend, Patonga, unexpectedly wins the regional music competition, allowing for the children to compete in Kampala at the nation-wide tournament.  It has all the ingredients of a great film; incredible adorable and lovable children who are so courageous and strong despite their terrible experiences, a passion for something that transcends all else, in this case dance, and a competition that will have the audience on anxiously hoping for a win; but in a real documentary, not a piece of made up fiction.

I don’t think anything in the story will surprise you, after all, we have heard of child warriors in other movies, heard generally about the civil wars and injustices in Africa, but this movie does a very good job at portraying specific children who you can already tell have certain special gifts or talents who will be leaders in their community, who spur you to want to do something about it but also leave you feeling hopeful for their future.  It will invigorate you, excite you, and ultimately inspire you.  I highly recommend this movie…$11

If you heart War Dance:

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Upon first viewing of Precious, I was wary that the film might be about spectacle. We are behind the eyes of an obese African American girl. She’s sixteen and still in Junior High School. She’s pregnant with her second child by her biological father. Her first child has Down Syndrome. And her mother mercilessly abuses her (physically, sexually, emotionally, verbally) at every opportunity. She gets kicked out of school. Then they lose their welfare checks. And even before the film steps into the territories of homelessness, joblessness and HIV I began to wonder if the writer was more interested in punishing her heroine than in redeeming her.

But that was on the first viewing, when the shock of all the suffering blinded me to the humor, poetry, the imagination, and incredible craft of the film. I’d also been blind to the humanity behind every character, which I realized on my second viewing, was at the core of Precious. The strength of the human spirit and the unwavering faith in what tomorrow may heal – those ideas (expressed much more eloquently in the film and not in this essay) are what make Precious almost unbearably moving.

You may recognize some household faces in Precious (Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz who do admirable jobs), but the performance that dominates my thinking is the comedian and actress Mo’Nique Imes. I’m certain hers is the best acting performance I’ve seen by a female lead this year.

Even if you fear your stomach will be too weak for this film, go see it anyway. You’ll leave the theater stronger . . . $11.

If you heart Precious:

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