SIFF Says:Crafted from extended time in refugee camps in the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains areas of South Sudan, BEATS OF THE ANTONOV, features the extraordinary music that is made in the region by any means necessary. North Sudan’s racist war against Southern ethnic groups has displaced 1.5 million people now living for over two years in fear of regular bombings from the Ukranian-made Antonov planes. The heart-stopping sequences in the midst of the attacks are contrasted with the communities remarkably coming together to celebrate life. Sudanese director Hajooj Kuka’s film treats his subjects not as refugees but as people, giving them a humanity rarely afforded in outsider-crafted docs. The music they create responds to their situation in deeply affecting ways with homemade instruments made using found objects as the cornerstone of community gatherings. This music functions as diversion, but also solidifies a sense of cultural identity and instills a hope for what the future may bring. BEATS OF THE ANTONOV is an exceptional documentary that effectively celebrates the evolving ethnomusicology in the Sudanese refugee camps and becomes an uplifting portrait of the resilience of oppressed communities.
There’s so much going on in this film. Bombs drop from hovering planes, a musician fashions a rebab from scrap metal, resistance armies assemble and arm, an ethnomusicologist captures and categorizes sounds and melodies, languages are forgotten. All these elements are woven together deftly in this beautiful portrait of a region with a deeply fractured identity. Great interviews, great music, and an impressive diversity of perspectives. (KRISHANU RAY)
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