November 7, 2007

Pre-release viewing: War Dance

A couple of nights ago, my program at NYU hosted a pre-viewing of Sean and Andrea Fine's documentary, War Dance.

The film is about three children living in a displacement camp in Northern Uganda and their struggle to do good things, despite the bad things they've seen and actually been forced to do.

When I used to think about documentaries, I thought about my dad and I watching The Civil War together on the couch, listening to the lilt in Ken Burns' voice over dissolves of old photographs. And that's fine. It's actually pretty wonderful.

But War Dance was more than a history coming alive. It -- is.

The story, however, isn't only about a time and a place that's currently experiencing strife. It's not about the war directly, but rather about the war's effect on the children. The lens, for example, is held almost unbearably at some points on the children and their grief at losing loved ones, being abducted themselves and fleeing their homes.

The film's ugliness, though, is countered, as Fine said in his call-in interview to our viewing, by the beauty which surrounds the war zone where these children are imprisoned.

And the Fines captured that beauty to its fullest. Sean Fine said he even used his third-generation camera lenses -- modified, of course -- for his camera equipment on the shoot. I don't know if it was the lenses or the scenery, but the colors were richer and clearer than any I've seen in the documentaries I've been madly watching this fall.

The film is structured around a competition that the children's school has qualified for, and their journey as underdogs; but the real story is along the way, and crowned by their experiences at the competition.

I was captivated. Tears streamed down my cheeks at many points during the viewing. I didn't expect such an emotional drain from a documentary. I don't think anyone really thinks crying and documentary really go together. People think Ken Burns. People think Morgan Spurlock. People think documentaries aren't good drama.

But I don't think so. People, think War Dance.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at November 7, 2007 11:15 AM | TrackBack
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