Charles A. Smith
"When The Drum Is Beating," from filmmaker Whitney Dow, is a documentary about the life of an extraordinary people, country, and band. The country is Haiti, the people are Haitians, and the band is Septentrional, known fondly in Haiti as Septen. For 60 years, this 20 member band has filled the hearts of the Haitian people with joy and their remarkable sound. The country has certainly seen its share of hardships since its inception, but the people of Haiti, who are resilient and proud, have always had their music. Even slaves in chains prior to the revolution in 1804 danced and sang, illustrating the points that there is always hope as long as the heart endures and also, that freedom is a state of mind.
This sensational and highly uplifting film gives insights into the history of a great people, their traditions, and the culture of Haiti. The breathtaking cinematography shows Haiti as it was, is, and provides a look at what it could become. The light that is shed on the lives of the Septen musicians and their struggles is candid and revealing, giving the viewer one of the most factual and touching first hand look at the magic in the midst of chaos. Though Septentrional is clearly talented, they too suffer to create the music that so many love and can find solace in. I really loved Septen's music, which is played throughout the documentary, which is in French with subtitles, giving it an authentic feel. My heart really goes out to these people who have gone through so much, but continue to remain true to their traditions, relying on music to feed their souls during dark and perilous times.
I don't believe that anyone can watch this gripping and heart warming film and just turn the television off and forget about these people, this country, or this band. This is one film that becomes a part of you, claiming a place in your heart and mind. There are so many different emotions evoked by "When The Drum Is Beating," that you will wonder how Dow was able to make you feel them all in such a short amount of time, but this is a fine piece of work that deserves to be heralded at the highest levels.