A feature-length documentary that tells the story of three rescued child soldiers from the Patongo displacement camp in northern Uganda. Dominic, Rose and Nancy are all members of the first school music group from the northern Uganda war zone to make it to the final round of Uganda’s national music competition. The documentary chronicles their journey through the competition and the role of music in their attempt to recover from the effects of violence.
The setting in this case is Uganda, more specifically northern Uganda, where a terrifying group called the Lord's Resistance Army has been in rebellion against the government for about 20 years, often resorting to the use of abducted child soldiers to stay in business. Members of the north's Acholi tribe have been forced to live in war zone displacement camps so vulnerable to the rebels they are under round the clock military protection.
Uganda also is a country where music and dance are so important that capital city Kampala hosts an annual National Music Competition, for which all of the country's 20,000 schools compete to enter. As the competition's director says, "it's the Olympics as far as these kids are concerned."
These two aspects of Uganda don't ordinarily meet. But in 2005 the primary school in the remote Patongo refugee camp, with students who are largely war orphans or rescued child soldiers, won its regional competition and, for the first time, headed to Kampala to compete in the nationals.
Rose, a 13-year-old orphan, saw things no one, child or not, should witness. Nancy, age 14, kept her younger siblings together as a family after their father was murdered and their mother abducted. And Dominic, a devoted xylophone player also 14, did things during his time as a child soldier he's been unable to tell anyone.
The remarkable thing about "War/Dance" is the therapeutic, restorative effect singing and dancing has on these understandably somber young people. Like turning on a switch, performing enables them to recapture their true selves. "Singing makes you forget," one of them says, and another insists, "in our daily lives there must be music. Life becomes so good."