In celebration of the end of classes for this semester, I decided to watch a movie. The movie I chose, Beat the Drum, was about the problem of AIDS in Africa. Quite a way to celebrate. Reminds me of the time I was upset one day and thought reading Sylvia Plath poems would make me feel better. Yeah, did not work out.
Anyway, Beat the Drum, a South African film released in 2003 and directed by David Hickson, despite being quite depressing (how do you make a happy movie about AIDS?) is nonetheless very beautiful, though a little heavy handed, although I recognize that most movies with a specific social agenda are. This movie had a very successful reception, winning many accolades.
In this film, Musa, (Junior Singo) a young boy whose family has died of AIDS decides to go to Johannesburg for work and to find his uncle. Musa ends up meeting people who are being affected by AIDS in different ways. Ti (Nolunthando Maleka) is an orphan girl on the streets trying to protect her virginity. Nobe (Owen Sejake) doesn’t want to acknowledge the danger of AIDS, even at the risk of exposing it to his family. And Stefan, a lawyer in a prominent family, discovers he is infected and decides to make the most of the rest of his life by helping the creation of an orphanage.
One of the things I like most about this movie is the verbal irony of the title. It refers to the drum Musa’s father gives to him before he dies, and tells him to play it when he becomes happy. It also refers to the message of the film: not staying silent. Creating awareness. After the death of his sister, Nobe finally realizes just what a problem ignoring AIDS is. He grabs a drum and starts banging it in town to start a meeting and tells his community that rather than shunning people with AIDS, everyone needs to come together in compassion and work to prevent more spread of the disease. Which I believe is the major point of the film. The director is essentially challenging the audience to pull out their drum and bang it, so to speak. It’s a very powerful message, considering just how may people HIV and AIDS effects, not just in Africa, but all over the world.
Another great thing about this movie is that while there are parts that will make you cry, it doesn’t make the AIDS problem seem hopeless. In fact, by the end, you feel quite up lifted. It exudes a great message of hope, that this is something we can change.
So, for creating a very important message about a very important issue, I give Beat the Drum an 8.