Although the message about HIV/Aids is a strong one in the film, there is also the message of truth and hope. If one phrase were to be used to describe Beat the Drum it would be: "The truth will set you free"
In most African cultures the elders do not talk to the young people about serious subjects and the movie challenges this without steamrollering the culture as a whole. It show that with communication, there is hope for a better life - a clear message that everybody will get.
The beautiful scenic shots on location - rural KwaZulu-Natal and the dark dingy areas of Johannesburg – also enhance the film. Director David Hickson does a great job in carrying the symbol of the drum throughout the film, as he tries to drive home the importance of communicating.
Even an outstanding movie with several awards under it's belt, has some shortfalls. In Beat the Drum , the villagers can't decide if they are Zulu or English as they swing back and forth between the two languages without any clear explanation. A big mistake if you want to create consistency.
But there are too many storylines running through the movie: Nobe's battle to resolve his issues, Musa’s quest to find hope for his family, and Pieter facing his demons and realising he is not immune to the "plague".
It's understandable that the director should want to illustrate that HIV/Aids knows no race, class or age and that everyone should talk about it openly if we ever want to end the pandemic, but the competing strands divert attention from the central character too much, often without clear transition.
Unfortunately for Beat the Drum, these shortfalls reduce its power. But the makers should be comforted in knowing that South Africans can walk out of the cinema not only entertained, but also changed.
- Nomfundo H Mbaba+Tshabalala
Beat the Drum is more than just a movie about AIDS, it's an emotional journey about breaking the silence that is wiping out a village.
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