Thursday, August 13, 2020

'River City' recognizes requirements for a community's positive drumbeats

Much arrives unexpectedly in the movie "River City Drumbeat," despite what the title probably suggests. Sure, it's a documentary, with everything that word entails, including an uplifting look at a group of likable kids from an impoverished community coming out of the woodwork to sparkle and shine.

Now, nothing's unusual about something as profound as that in most docs, but the story of the River City Drum Corps from the poor side of Louisville, Ky., becomes so much more in the hands of co-directors Marlon Johnson and Anne Flatte and, of course, the major contributions from their inspirational subjects.

Johnson is a 10-time Emmy winner, while PBS veteran Flatte calls Louisville home, a likely reason for the film's intimate insights into the lives of so many significant players contributing to the success of both the group and the film.

Most surprising is how the joyful, rat-a-tat-tatting noise of the drummers actually takes a backseat to the heartbeats of those same contributors, starting with "Corps" founder Ed "Nardie" Smith.

Smith, himself discouraged as a youth to lean toward the arts, "Cuz it wasn't something a black kid did," found his own inspiration to teach music from a soulmate named Zambia, now buried in the same cemetery as Muhammad Ali and KFC founder Colonel Sanders. The rest, as they say, is history, not to mention an exceptionally moving story as relevant to our times as anything else you'll likely see on any screen this year. 

Not rated by MPAA (but with nothing to offend); 1:35; $ $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

(The Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque opens "River City Drumbeat" Friday on its virtual cinema site, where it will play through Sept. 3.)

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