Not all documentaries are created equal. Some are studies of controversial subject matter that is sure to catch the attention of arthouse denizens. Others are much harder to sell about true life stories that would otherwise go unnoticed if not for a film crew, but these are oftentimes the most satisfying of all. In 2001, Winged Migration tracked the migratory patterns of birds across all the Earth's continents, leaving audiences amazed by the beauty of nature. It has become a fixture on high definition cable due to its breathtaking visual imagery. In 2002, Spellbound captivated mainstream audiences with its behind-the-scenes depiction of kids trying to win the country's most popular spelling bee. No longer were people seeing kids as freaks blessed with eidetic memory. Instead, they were humanized as small children trying to come to terms with a gift they didn't fully understand or even appreciate. In 2005, penguins marched and North American audiences took note to the tune of $77.4 million in domestic box office receipts. A natural instinct and a way of life for thousands of years certainly made the emperor penguin society captivating to the human race.
War/Dance has more modest aspirations than to accomplish what these three previous documentaries managed. It also won't attempt to impact political policy the way that Michael Moore has done though it might have some accidental repercussions in this regard. This documentary follows the efforts of three Ugandan children -- Nancy, Rose and Dominic -- as they attempt to become the first students from the Patongo refugee camp in the war torn northern portion of the country to make the finals of Uganda's national music and dance competition. They live in an area where the military boosts its numbers by drafting children their age into its units yet they overcome their surroundings through their gift of dance. The title refers to the two driving motivations in the lives of these children, and their bravery in the face of unimaginable horror has made this title one of the most popular releases of Sundance 2007. A strong contender for the 2008 Oscar for Best Documentary, it will receive a moderate independent theater release before making its way to the home video market. Fans of the documentary genre will consider this a Must Watch title. Its buzz is off the charts. (David Mumpower/BOP)