The Washington University Libraries are proud to sponsor two screenings as part of the Henry Hampton Film Series in this year’s online version of the St. Louis International Film Festival, which takes place November 5–22.
River City Drumbeat is a 2019 documentary by Anne Flatté and Marlon Johnson about the River City Drum Corp Cultural Arts Institute. The group provides an important support network for the educational and personal growth of Black youths in Louisville, Kentucky. The River City Drum Corp has been teaching children how to make and play the drums for almost 30 years.
Playing in a drumline is a mixture of individual creativity and highly structured teamwork, and the film shows how the instructors and students translate this lesson to all aspects of their lives. Flatté and Johnson document the moment where founding instructor Edward “Nardie” White steps down and hands over the direction of the Corp to his protégé, Albert Shumake. The year the filmmakers spent with the River City Drum Corp and their showing us annual drum performances, seasonal changes, graduations, and more is a reminder of the continuity and stability that the arts provide during times of change.
Ashley O’Shay’s Unapologetic is a needed history lesson on the very recent past of Chicago and the ongoing community efforts for ending police violence. O’Shay works with two Black women activists, Janaé and Bella, who advocate for justice in the case of the police murder of Rekia Boyd in 2012 and after. As importantly, the film also shows them dealing with challenges and joy in their daily lives.
Unapologetic moves beyond the marches in the streets into the activists’ homes and places of learning and work. If the phrase “the personal is political” has become overused, O’Shay’s long-term commitment to documenting Janaé’s and Bella’s political and personal lives, and her humanizing a community of protestors whose passion and causes are too often dismissed or reductively simplified in the mainstream media, reminds us of the inescapable power of the saying.
Both films are free to view online November 5–22, but they are geolocked to viewers in Missouri and Illinois.