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TIFF 2014 Review: Beats of the Antonov

“I feel music is essential to the Blue Nile people. Because it is really part of the society, like water, food and air”, are words are spoken by one of the participants in Hajooj Kuka’s clever documentary Beats of the Antonov.

The film is vaguely deceptive, and carries amazing emotional depth for a movie that firstly, is barely over an hour long, and secondly, seems to initially be about how the citizens in the community in South Sudan appear to avoid trouble in the region simply by dancing their troubles away.

In fact, Beats of the Antonov can easily hide its somewhat salacious message within the film, because many audience members will be wondering how war reporter Kuka was allowed such free and unchallenged access into this music-heavy society in the first place.

So while the drumbeat of Beats of the Antonov permeates and nourishes the film, a shocking moment occurs when the bombs are dropped from the sky, the totality and brutality of the border war is felt almost first-hand, and, most critically, the beats of the drum cease, and the music stops.

Here, Kuka could have tried to alert audience members to the ever-present dangers lurking in the region, but he does not. And throughout the remainder of the film, it becomes clear that much of the fragility of the society, the beat that is lurking below the surface, is that South Sudan needs the drumming, the music, and the sense of community, to hide many issues, and not just that of the threat of war, and sublimate much of the difficult nature of conflict below the surface.

[star v=35]