"War Dance" is an Academy Award-nominated documentary.
WAR DANCE — **** — Documentary feature about Ugandan refugees; with English subtitles (African dialects); rated PG-13 (violence, brief nudity)

Parts of "War Dance" are more disturbing, more frightening than anything that's been seen in most, if not all, of Hollywood recent horror films.

For example, just try to forget the film's very vivid description of the plight of a Ugandan woman, who was forced to pick up the parts of her dismembered husband's body and then bury it in the jungle.

What makes that all the more horrifying is that it's a true story, one of several in this Academy Award-nominated documentary feature that will haunt you for days. And while that might make the film sound like a depressing prospect, its definitely has its uplifting moments as well.

"War Dance" focuses on members of the northern Ugandan tribes, who were forced to flee their homes for their own safety.

As part of the two decades-long civil war, rebel forces have been killing Ugandan men and women, and abducting children to serve in their armies. Lucky survivors are now being sheltered in government-run refugee camps.

Life in these camps is hard, and food and water are scarce. Yet the survivors continue to cling to the hope that someday they'll be able to return to their homes.

That includes Rose, Nancy and Dominic, three talented youngsters living in the Patongo camp. Like other members of their tribe, these three are participating national dance and music festival. Their chances of winning there are remote, but they're thrilled to have the chance to compete.

Filmmakers Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine divide the story into two portions — the first describes life in the camps, while the second concentrates on the cultural competition.

It's a smart move, because otherwise the film might have wound up being oppressively dark and depressing.

Still, few moviegoers will be able to remain dry-eyed throughout, especially when they hear what Dominic was forced to do in his brief time as a rebel soldier. Or when Nancy and her mother visit her father's grave, and the girl has an emotional breakdown.

In addition to his co-directing duties, Fine served as cinematographer. His camera captures beautiful Ugandan locations — and some equally beautiful character moments. The film ends on a surprisingly upbeat note.

"War Dance" is rated PG-13 for some disturbing violent imagery and descriptions of war atrocities, as well as some brief native nudity. Running time: 107 minutes.

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