Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Xylophone is a Serious Instrument

My buddy and I went to see War/Dance tonight, an Academy-Award nominated documentary about primary-school students from a government-protected refugee camp called Patongo in Northern Uganda. The film follows them preparing for and competing in a national music competition in 2005. These children, from the Acholi tribe, formerly lived in villages besieged by rebel forces; one teenager featured in the film has lost both parents and another was forced to kill fellow villagers to save his own life. School--in particular, music--is the salvation for the resilient children whose stories are shared in the documentary. They make their own instruments, lugging about unwieldy xylophones and harps fashioned of twine and displaying an infectious hopefulness that makes me want to make the movie required viewing for all our high school students.

There is something wonderful about being reminded that there are still children who, though they've witnessed horrors beyond our comprehension, are fascinated by traffic, tall buildings, and electricity. I was just talking to the mother of one of our graduates who flew cross-country back to college without his cell-phone charger. He was apparently panicked at the thought of being in a Communication Black Hole for the short period of time before he procured a new or fed-exed charger. Somehow, my friends and I in college managed to find each other on campus without email and text messaging. I think we wrote notes to each other on dry-erase boards mounted on our dorm-room doors. The people in Patongo are barely in touch with the rest of their own country.

Please see this movie. The music, dancing, and cinematography are beautiful. And while the reality is sobering, the story is inspiring.

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