After Kony: Staging Hope DVD Review: The Play’s the Thing

The war in Northern Uganda has been getting a lot of attention in the media as of late. It probably should have gotten a lot more attention sooner than it did. It is one of the greatest emergencies the world has ever faced, yet until recently, very little had been done to bring Joseph Kony to justice. Through organizations like “Invisible Children” and films like Machine Gun Preacher, this crisis has been brought to the attention of more and more people here is the United States.

The documentary, After Kony: Staging Hope, follows Melissa Fitzgerald and members of her theater group “Voices in Harmony” as they travel to Uganda to work with refugees from the Labuje IDP camp. Normally, Melissa Fitzgerald and “Voices in Harmony” work with at-risk youth in Los Angeles. But after learning of the war in Northern Uganda, she decided to travel there to see if theater could help these refugees like it has helped so many teens in LA.

The refugees that live in the Labuje camp have survived numerous horrors and atrocities as many were taken as children and forced to join Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army. Some were forced to kill members of their own family, while others were raped and defiled. The stories they tell are horrific and nothing anyone should ever have to experience.

Maybe you are thinking, “Can putting on a play really change the lives of these people?”

The answer is simply, yes it can.

Watching Melissa and her team do theater exercises with the refugees is not always riveting cinema. But, the stories that these refuges tell and watching them come out of their shells through drama is incredible. Such simple games and creating short plays begin to bring about healing in a unique way. It seems to give these people, these survivors, a voice they have never had and never expected to have.

This film is definitely worth your time. Although it can be slow at times. The heart and continued hope of the Labuje refugees is inspiring. Melissa and the team from “Voices in Harmony” touch on a common language that brings two vastly different worlds together. I also love the fact that the film not only has an English version but a version in Luo, the local Ugandan language as well.

These former child soldiers have seen enough drama in their lives already. But it seems what they never expected was that drama could take their pain and turn it into something positive.

The DVD comes with a photo gallery, filmmaker biographies, and a study guide on the project that you have to access from your computer’s DVD-Rom drive. To find out more about supporting this cause, you can go to Voices of Uganda.

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Darcy Staniforth

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