5.0 1
Director: Sean Fine, Andrea Nix Fine

Cast: Sean Fine, Andrea Nix Fine

Since the 1980s, Uganda has been in a state of civil war, with the nation's leadership violently contested by a revolutionary force known as the Lord's Resistance Army (or L.R.A.). The fighting is fiercest in the North of Uganda, and there the L.R.A. recruit many of their soldiers by abducting children from refugee camps and homes in the poverty-stricken villages,


Since the 1980s, Uganda has been in a state of civil war, with the nation's leadership violently contested by a revolutionary force known as the Lord's Resistance Army (or L.R.A.). The fighting is fiercest in the North of Uganda, and there the L.R.A. recruit many of their soldiers by abducting children from refugee camps and homes in the poverty-stricken villages, where electricity and running water are still luxuries known only to a few. However, in the village of Patongo, located deep in Uganda's war zone, a group of students (many of whom escaped from the clutches of the L.R.A.) struggles to rise above the violence and desperation that surrounds them. Each year, a student music festival is held in Kampala, Uganda's capitol city, in which children from around the country compete for prizes in performing traditional music and dance. When the students of the Patongo Primary School are invited to compete for the first time, the children are both thrilled at their opportunity and determined to prove that in a place of violence and want, creativity and talent can still take root. War Dance is a documentary about the Patongo Primary School's long journey to the Kampala Music Festival and the experiences, both good and bad, which informed them. War Dance received its world premiere at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
In War/Dance directors Sean and Andrea Nix Fine follow a group of children living in a refugee camp from the Patongo Primary School as they attempt to win Uganda's National Music Competition. Like similarly structured documentaries before it, from Spellbound to Mad Hot Ballroom, War/Dance benefits from the sympathy evoked by kids striving to succeed and an inherit sports story that can be easily grafted over the messiness of real life. Though technically assured, these films tend to go for the easy emotional high over the patient cinéma vérité character studies that result in complex societal portraits like in the touchstone Hoop Dreams. Accordingly, the finest moments in War/Dance come from the naturalistic moments when the camera simply observes the children. Sean, who also handled the cinematography, has a good feel for natural light and color, playing the bright blues, purples, and greens of the children's clothing against the dirt and dust of the refugee camp. But the Fines are so pushy with directorial interference that such moments are scarce. Too many of the shots look fussy and slick with a broad manipulative pull reminiscent of advertising. Confessional camera interviews with the featured children -- Rose, Dominic, and Nancy -- are reminiscent of reality-television techniques with a similar purpose of creating a superficial viewer/subject relationship. Most uncomfortable are scenes where the children are brought back to their former home, village, or place of abduction and made to talk about the unimaginably horrific experiences that led to they're ending up at a refugee camp. These trips feel set up, a gross exploitation of their pain. From a filmmaking point-of-view, the story does not unfold with any sense of natural discovery here, rather it's forced on us and the children through staged confrontation. When Nancy howls over her father's makeshift grave, the inappropriate intrusion of the spectator is palpable. (Her mother tells her not to because the noise might attract guerilla soldiers.) The camera lingers at a short distance, seemingly embarrassed to be there. The first half of the movie, when the children are preparing to travel to Kampala for the competition, is the "war" portion. Once they travel to the modern city for the "dance," the movie concentrates on the reassuring and comfortable competition story. As one child touchingly states, "I'm excited to see what peace looks like." Having witnessed the horrors of their lives, we now see the beauty, life, and possibility of art. The success of the children is certainly uplifting, if predictable given its predecessors. But the duality of the structure is awfully cut-and-dry. The idea of a dance competition being placed in comparison to the horrors of war is a flimsy conceit. There is no doubt ample material for a probing documentary of the children's lives, but the Fines seemed determined to shoehorn in their feel-good story instead. War/Dance won the documentary directing prize at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Velocity / Thinkfilm
Region Code:

Special Features

Deleted and extended scenes; Theatrical trailer; Trailer gallery; 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround; 1.78:1 aspect ratio (enhanced for 16x9 tvs); English subtitles

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits

Technical Credits
Sean Fine Director,Cinematographer
Andrea Nix Fine Director
George Acogny Musical Direction/Supervision
John Andrews Sound/Sound Designer
Asche & Spencer Score Composer
Erik Cleage Executive Producer
Jeff Consiglio Editor
Douglas Eger Executive Producer
Albie Hecht Producer
Andrew Herwitz Associate Producer
Peter Hutchens Sound/Sound Designer
Daniel Katz Executive Producer
Kari Kim Co-producer
Susan MacLaury Executive Producer
Susan McLaury Executive Producer
Stephen Nemeth Executive Producer
Glen Piegari Sound/Sound Designer
Spencer Score Composer
Josie Swantek Co-producer
Mark Urman Executive Producer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- War Dance
1. Opening Sequence [6:45]
2. Nancy [8:01]
3. Dominic [3:28]
4. Abducted [4:03]
5. A New Instructor [5:27]
6. Rose [6:04]
7. Practice [4:36]
8. Rebels [6:16]
9. Dry Season [3:59]
10. The Bwola [4:24]
11. A Visit Home [5:56]
12. Two Days to Go [6:02]
13. The Journey [5:12]
14. The Festival [6:01]
15. Second Performance [4:43]
16. Free Time [5:30]
17. Traditional Dance [6:04]
18. Awards Ceremony [5:07]
19. Returning to Patongo [3:31]
20. End Credits [5:31]


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War/Dance 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
DrCooper More than 1 year ago
I watched this movie with college freshmen, for my Emergence of Global History class.I think it would also work with high school student's too - there is no graphic violence - particularly as the subjects of the film would be around the same age. War Dance suceeds in presenting both the horrors of war in Uganda - camps, orphans, child soldiers - and the resilience of the human spirit. The plot follows a group of students in a remote refugee camp, who are training to take part in a national competiton of song and dance. The film intertwines the story of their preparations, highlighting their eagerness to be the best and the joy and healing they get out of the movie, with the stories of their horrific pasts. Individual children tell their stories - the use of sub-titles is very effective, as you get to hear the nunances of their emotion as they recount kidnappings and murders in their past. Overall, I think the main positive of the film was that my students did not recoil from the harshness of the these childrens lives but could see them as real people.