War Dance

Movie review by
Joly Herman, Common Sense Media
War Dance Movie Poster Image
Riveting story of pain and beauty in Uganda.
  • PG-13
  • 2007
  • 147 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Touching examples of how young people care for their siblings when parents aren't available.

Violence

Children talk about the brutality of war; how they saw parents and others killed and abducted, and how some were forced to be child soldiers.

Sex
Language
Consumerism

The children of the Acholi tribe have no access to electricity or running water. Going to the big city blows them away.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that though this film is uplifting, some of the stories told by the children in this movie depict graphic horrors of war. Some speak of murder, some speak of abduction. The film takes place in a refugee camp in Northern Uganda where evidence of poverty can be overwhelming. But the Acholi tribe acts with dignity, which is a lesson in itself.

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Teen, 17 years old Written bydada2424 October 14, 2011

What's the story?

Northern Uganda is the setting for this documentary, which traces Pantogo Primary School's unlikely journey to Uganda's National Music Competition. We see the children preparing their performances, being coached by their teacher, and honing their instruments. They are aided by two professional musicians, who have come to the camp to coax their performance to the next level. What goes on behind the scenes, however, is where the real drama lies. Many of these children have seen their parents killed by rebels, or else they have been abducted by rebels and forced to become child soldiers. As they tell their stories, the audience begins to grasp what is really at stake for these children. Music and dance allow them to forget their sorrow, encouraging them to reach beyond the trauma that has shaped their experience. Traveling to Kampala for the competition allows the children of this remote camp to experience what the rest of the world takes for granted. They see airplanes and cars for the first time, they drink soda with straws, they hear the other children refer to them as terrorists. And they perform with passion unbridled.

Is it any good?

WAR DANCE won the 2007 Sundance Award for Documentary Directing and was nominated for an Academy Award, and for good reason. It's a visually stunning piece with real dramatic pull and a triumphant climax. It doesn't delve into sentimentality; rather, concise stories are told by these child witnesses to the horrors of war. In a land where 200,000 children have been orphaned by war, War Dance explores what makes them feel whole. The film succeeds in making the viewer feel very humble in the face of real courage. On the day of the performance, Dominic says, "We are going to show them we are giants." Thanks to this film, we can grasp what being a giant truly means.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the children of the Acholi tribe survive. How is their life different from yours? Can you imagine living without electricity? How does music change Dominic's life? What makes Rose happy?

Movie details

  • In theaters: November 7, 2007
  • On DVD or streaming: September 30, 2008
  • Cast: Dominic, Nancy, Rose
  • Director: Sean Fine
  • Studio: THINKFilm
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Run time: 147 minutes
  • MPAA rating: PG-13
  • MPAA explanation: some thematic material involving descriptions of war atrocities

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