New to DVD this week: IMBA MEANS SING
Danielle Bernstein’s portrait of a Ugandan children’s choir debuted at Atlanta last year. Other fest screenings have included Nashville, San Diego Kids, DocuWest, Hot Springs Doc, Citizen Jane, Lone Star, and the Southern Circuit, in addition to community and church screenings.
The African Children’s Choir, founded in 1984 during a period of civil war in Uganda, has afforded children living in extreme poverty an avenue to express themselves and provide for their future. International tours, album releases, and media appearances have resulted in greater visibility for the group, which expanded from a strictly Ugandan choir to take on children from other African nations. Bernstein focuses her film on Choir 39 as it tours around the world to generate awareness – and ultimately funds – for the faith-based parent organization’s efforts to provide education and relief for poverty-stricken children. In an audience-friendly decision that might come off as too saccharine for some viewers, the point-of-view is that of three of the choir members – primarily standout drummer Moses, with support from quieter Nina and the more outgoing Angel. They’re all cute, and, importantly, hopeful, kids, but their centrality in the storytelling allows the film to sidestep larger, more complex questions around poverty, international aid, and the role of children in, essentially, singing for their supper. Still, their voices do offer a corrective for the kind of reductive, stereotypical representations of “poor African kids” that often dominate mainstream media.