Beats of the Antonov
Directed by Hajooj Kuka
The story of the people of the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains in Sudan, showing how they deal with civil war. Traditionally music has always been part of daily life in these areas, but now, it has a new role in a society challenge by war.
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★★★★ review by Andrew Buckle on Letterboxd
Beats of the Antonov captures, in frequently striking visuals and under dangerous circumstances, a fabulous communal musical expression of identity and hope in a troubling period of Sudanese history. The people of the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains in Sudan are dealing with a civil war in their own incredibly life-affirming way. This documentary - essentially a musical alive with consistent drum beats, chanting and stamping feet - has an intoxicating pulse.
The immense spirit and optimism of these people is so invigorating. After resurfacing from the bunkers they seek refuge in to protect themselves from the frequent aerial bombings they sing and dance and celebrate the life that has been left for them.
Director Hajooj Kuka, who visited Sydney and participated in a Q&A, said that he visited this region unsure of what path his film would take. He fell in love with the music and it became the heart and soul of his film. The musicians craft their own instruments and have complete freedom of expression. 'Girls Music' is one genre explored in the film - completely owned by the individual - the lyrics, drawn from experiences, the melody and the beat (often just a bucket).
We get a complex insight into the Sudanese culture, a nation where the people resist racist oppression - a war against a culture and forced unification of identity as a result of the Arab-African divide - but are fighting to ensure that the current generation and those ahead don't lose the cultural roots of the region.
★★★½ review by Paolo Kagaoan on Letterboxd
★★★½ review by Lorenzo Benitez on Letterboxd
A curious, sympathetic account of the relationship between music, culture and identity, all foregrounded in the midst of the ongoing Sudanese civil war. A tightly-edited work (perhaps its greatest flaw is that it's a bit too quick), Beats of the Antonov deftly navigates its complex subject matter, imbuing it with a warmth and optimistic humanity often overlooked by other filmmakers documenting Africa who cheaply perpetuate the harmful, reductive stereotype of the continent as a cesspit. Instead, here we have a film that uses the role of music in the cultures of the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains as a starting point from which to ask important questions concerning race and tribal identity in contemporary, war-torn Sudan. Beats not only entertains in the moment, but also provokes further thought about the relationship between culture and identity, and how this fuels sectarian conflict.
★★★★ review by Sam on Letterboxd
kuka gives these people names and identities. They are not grouped together as “refugees” and the baggage that comes with that tag. He allows them to speak of their lives and their culture in a way that is so refreshing. This is not a film meant evoke pity; in fact, it allows you to feel quite optimistic.
★★★½ review by Jared Mobarak on Letterboxd
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