Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Beat the Drum (2003) NR - 4 Stars

I normally can't stand when I allow a movie to make me cry but this one got to me. Based loosely on a true story, this film is a very compassionate look at AIDS in Africa. Your journey follows a young boy, Masu, who has lost both his parents to AIDS and the elder in the village, he calls grandmother, whom at her age, can no longer look after more children. Before his father died, he gave Masu a drum, called him a man, and told him that one day he will beat this drum in a beautiful celebration of his happiness and journey into manhood. At only 9 years of age, Masu leaves his tiny village and travels to Johannesburg to earn money and search of his uncle he hopes can help. Instead, he meets a truck driver named Nobe, and together these two find a way to get people to speak the truth about what's happening, uniting them in their private battles against AIDS.

Junior Singo will tug at your heart as he does the heart of Owen Sejake, when the pair meets. They interact perfectly together to form a great story of a tragic statistic. Fabulous acting by Singo, really everyone, as they tell the story of what's killed so many African citizens leaving so many children to fend for themselves. At the time this movie was made in 2003, over 30 million people in Africa had already died from AIDS leaving over 12 million children orphaned. Partly because many people are uneducated and believe this disease was a curse from their ancestors or some type of witchcraft. Rather than speak about it out loud or learn how to protect themselves against it, many prefer to never discuss it at all. It takes this one boy's determination to help spread a message of prevention and in doing so brings understanding and courage to a place where people have very little to be grateful for. The film is suitable for children to watch who've had their sex education lessons. And, don't let the foreign subtitles at the beginning scare you away. The do not last very long.

Musa (Junior Singo), lives in the small town of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. His mother has recently died of a strange disease that's been killing off most of the village. As his father lays feverish, awaiting his same sentencing, he gives his son a small drum, telling him he's now a man and must step up to his calling. He tells him one day he'll rejoice and beat this drum in celebration of his hearts content. As his father passes, the eldest grandmother Ntombi (Mary Twala), can no longer manage the children she's been left with. She gives her blessing to Masu who vows he'll find work and the last of  his family in the big city. As he leaves for his dangerous journey, his cousin Thandi (Dineo Nchabeleng), begs him to please find her father.

After walking for days, Masu sneaks into the back of the truck belonging to Nobe (Owen Sejake). Though Nobe objects at first, he quickly takes a liking to the young boy having only girls back home as his four children. But when Nobe's boss objects when he brings him back to his job and Masu is forced to the streets. Soon, he's in for a major cultural shock when an thug running gang of orphaned children teach him the hard way to live on the streets. He meets a young girl named "T" Letti (Nolunthando Maleka), who's also orphaned but chooses to steal to survive. She's constantly beaten up while the other street kids try use her for sex. Masu teaches her to not steal and prays for the strength to protect her as he promises to take her to a better place.

Z Productions, Virgil Films
Director: David Hickson
Writer: W. David McBrayer
Producers: Richard Shaw, W. David McBrayer, Karen S. Shapiro
I viewed 8/12

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