Directed by: Sean Fine & Andrea Nix Fine
Running time: 105 minutes
Release date: November 9, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13
This is a very sensitive and emotional film set in Northern Uganda- a country ravaged by more than two decades of civil war. This film describes war atrocities and genocide. It follows three children whose families have been torn apart, their homes destroyed and who currently reside in a displaced persons camp in Patongo (population 60,000 people). When they are invited to compete in an annual music and dance festival, their historic journey to their nation's capital is also an opportunity to regain a part of their childhood and to taste victory for the first time in their lives.
This journey is seen through the eyes of Rose, a 13 year old choir girl, who is trying to piece her life back together after witnessing the brutal aftermath of her parents' grisly murder. The film also follows Dominic, 14, an escaped child soldier (who had been forced to kill) and a virtuoso xylophone player who is haunted by the memory of two of the people he was previously forced to kill.
Meanwhile Nancy, a 14 year old dancer, struggles to keep herself and her three baby siblings alive. These children attend the Patongo Primary School where the students need everything, from school uniforms to instruments. Despite the odds, the children endlessly practice their performances, driven by heart, talent, and the need to rebuild the life. If their bus can safely make it through rebel territory, they will take the stage. Unlike the wealthier schools in the south (safe-zones), these students of Patongo are traumatized by prejudices from their competition.
For the past twenty years, northern Uganda has been at war with a rebel force, the Lord's Resistance Army (L.R.A.), and the country's children have been the greatest victims of the conflict. But here, the children are not only the victims of rebels, they are the rebels. The L.R.A. has a chillingly effective process to fill its ranks - abducting innocent children. Under the cover of darkness, the rebels raid villages to kidnap new soldiers. Children - some as young as five - are ripped from their beds in front of their helpless parents. Once abducted, the children are forced at gunpoint to viciously beat or kill neighbors, and sometimes even their own parents. The boys become soldiers while the girls are forced into sexual slavery.
The National Music Competition has over 20,00 schools performing, but only one school will go home the champion, and no one expects it to be Patongo.
Overall, this is an uplifting and enlightening documentary. A must see film!
FILM RATING (A)