When Sean and Andrea learned about the exploitation of children in Northern Uganda due to their 20-year war, they were prompted to action.
“After looking into this war, I couldn’t believe that we hadn’t heard about it,” explains Sean.
They discovered that 30,000 kids were abducted, and countless women were also abducted and put into sexual slavery. For Sean, it was very important that this film reach a broad range of people.
“It can’t just be a film that appeals to people who are interested in Africa,” he stresses. The directors wanted to tell the story of three children through their own words. While out scouting, they discovered that the national music and dance competition was happening. One of the schools that was participating was in Patongo. However, this was one of the most difficult places to get to because of rebel activity.
“That made me want to go there even more,” insists Sean.
The day the crew showed up at the camp the kids were practicing for the competition. Sean and Andrea knew right away they were onto something magical: “We have got to follow these kids.”
“We wanted a story that had hope,” Andrea emphasizes. “Not just a painful look into the world of these children because children in pain is a hard thing to digest. … Music allows those kids to feel like human beings again, and that’s when people connect because everyone knows what it feels like to have a dream.”
For Nancy, Dominic and Rose, the three main characters in the film, this dream was competing and winning the competition in Kampala.
During the 12 weeks of filming the crew was constantly confronted by danger. First, rebels often jumped out from the side of the road and ambushed the cars.
“They are not negotiating with you. They kill you,” Sean says matter-of-factly.
Moreover, there were also the medical dangers of living in a refugee camp. During most of the second shoot, Sean suffered from malaria.
And that’s when they had an ”incident” while shooting one night. On their way back to the camp, men in uniform approached their vehicle yielding RPGs almost touching Sean’s head.
“It took about 20 to 30 minutes until we realized that those men were from the military, and they were upset that we were out,” Sean says. “An RPG only inches from your head is kind of frightening.”
When asked if it was hard for the kids to open up and talk about their lives, Sean tells that the kids wouldn’t really talk when they initially started filming. So Andrea suggested that the kids look right at the camera.
“Suddenly they answered, and all the kids shared everything,” she says.
War/Dance gives an honorable and pure portrayal of these children’s lives. Within the 12 weeks of filming, the kids constantly inspired the entire crew.
“Those kids worked so hard to get to that competition and to overcome what had happened to them that they inspired you to work hard to make a better film,” Sean says proudly.
In addition to the film, a scholarship fund has been set up for the kids to allow them to go to secondary school. By simply buying a ticket to watch the movie, everyone can contribute to support these children.
After watching the documentary you won’t be able to get the kids out of your mind – and to Sean that means a lot.
“That’s really powerful,” he confesses.
But again, we’re not talking about a common movie with a fictional storyline.
As Sean concludes, “The story is bigger than life ... their story is bigger than life.”
War/Dance releases in select theaters Nov. 9.