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Haiti’s history is long, bloody, and fractured. The idea of telling it, in concert with a profile of the country’s music (notably Septentrionial, one of the western hemisphere’s oldest jazz bands), seems like a ridiculously tall order. That’s what Whitney Dow attempts in When the Drum Is Beating, with varying degrees of sucesss. Certainly, it’s fascinating to watch Septentrionial’s new and old members butt heads over stylings (such scenes are spliced with one-on-one interviews). The music itself is the most captivating aspect of the film—but almost to a fault. It’s easy to get lost in Septentrionial’s drumbeats, which is a disservice to When the Drum Is Beating’s succinct but deep historical take on Haiti, which spans its French colonization, the 1804 revolution, and Papa Doc’s iron grip of misrule.
Tuesday, June 21 At 5:45 p.m at Discovery HD Theater; also on Wednesday, June 22 at 3:30 p.m. at AFI Silver 3.