Shot by Sudanese director hajooj kuka, the film follows farmers, herders, and rebels living in or displaced to the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountain regions of Sudan, following their lives in villages and refugee camps. Burdened with their country’s almost constant state of civil war since its independence in 1956, the displaced, straddling the border between Sudan and newly independent South Sudan must attempt to survive the indiscriminate bombings of the Russian-made and government sanctioned Antonov planes that fly over Nuba Mountain settlements. Yet, incredibly, the people of the Blue Nile respond to adversity with music, singing and dancing to celebrate their survival. Beats of the Antonov explores the power of music binding a community, offering hope and a common identity for refugees engaged in a fierce battle to protect cultural traditions and heritage from those trying to obliterate them.
The screening, played to a nearly sold-out audience at Film Society of Lincoln Center‘s Walter Reade Theater, provided for plenty of discussion and praise during the Q + A panel with director hajooj kuka and Associate Producer Megan Greeley and moderated by HRW FF’s Jennifer Nedbalsky-Neal.
Prompted by an audience member, kuka extrapolated on his film’s title and how it played into its multifaceted themes of music and community in the face of seemingly insurmountable adversity. The Beats of the film’s title, he explained, referring as much to the eerie beats of the Antonovs’ propellers that open the film as the hopeful beats of the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountain refugees’ rebaba and drums that close it. “I just had a play on the word,” kuka emphasized, “beats of death and beats of celebration, of life”.
One Sudanese audience member, originally from the Nuba Mountain Region, praised kuka for his film but stressed that the audience, despite the hopeful and musical focus of the film, not forget the reality of the situation in Sudan – “You have to do your part”.
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