Every once in a while a film comes along that really says something that matters. Recommended from another writer's book on poverty and social change along with BLOOD DIAMOND and TSOTSI, I picked up the film. It employed purely African actors and film crews, besides the director, out of a purposeful effort. BEAT THE DRUM ended up being one of those films that matters. Enjoy.
Set in southern Africa near Jo'burg, the story follows the journeys of a young boy named Musa. His mother and cousins have all died from the curse, but when his father dies from it at the beginning of the film, he is doomed to be known as the boy from the cursed family. He leaves his small village and heads to Jo'burg to look for his uncle and buy a cow for his grandmother, a journey which leads him into danger on the streets of the big city as he scraps for money and food amid the street riffraff.
The secondary storylines follow an older truck driver who is on the road a lot, whose wife does not trust that he is faithful while away and worries he'll give her AIDS. The owner of the truck driving company has a son who he learns is dying of AIDS, but doesn't want to face the truth of the disease's lack of favoritism.
The film puts faces and stories to the disease that is ravaging the African continent. There is much fear and ignorance surrounding the disease. People don't want to talk about it. Using local spiritists, they'd rather call on their ancestors for help than listen to the local medical workers. Some of them even want to spread the disease out of spite for the persons who gave it to them. The situation is dire, yet knowledge of the situation seems scarce enough in America. Not only does BEAT THE DRUM give a necessary voice to the voiceless Africans, it puts forward fantastic acting jobs and cinematography. The film is beautiful and sad, and while watching, I cried for Africa.
---Reviewed by Jonathan Stephens