Film poster for "River City Drumbeat" with illustrations of band members.
Film poster for "River City Drumbeat" with illustrations of band members.


Regular price $559.00


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African American Culture • American Studies • Education • Music • Sociology • Youth

Date of Completion: 2019 | Run Time: 95 minutes​​ | Language: English | Captions: Yes | Includes: Guide for Youth Educators and Parents Directors: Marlon Johnson & Anne Flatté | Producers: Owsley Brown, Anne Flatté, Marlon Johnson

RIVER CITY DRUMBEAT chronicles generations of African American mentors in Louisville, Kentucky’s West End neighborhood and their work to empower children and teens through creative expression. For three decades, Edward “Nardie” White has been teaching ancestral Pan-African culture and drumming traditions in the River City Drum Corps in order to instill a foundation of purposeful resilience within his neighborhood youth. Against the backdrop of the American South, Mr. White’s drumline and its multi-generational network of support has been a lifeline for many young African Americans. Now in his sixties, he must step down to allow the drum corps to evolve with a new generation. In his final year as director he trains his successor Albert Shumake, a young artist whose troubled life was transformed by the drumline and Mr. White’s mentorship when he was a teen. During this transitional year, Mr. White and Albert reflect on the tragedies and triumphs in their lives and the legacy of the drum corps. Featuring powerful drumline performances and the stories of its parents, youth and mentors, RIVER CITY DRUMBEAT is a testament to the lasting impact of art, love and community.

The New York Times - Critic's Pick
"Beautiful ... At the heart of this documentary from Marlon Johnson and Anne Flatté is a drum line in Louisville, Ky., that offers children a chance to engage with Black art and history ... The film listens for this community’s heartbeat, finding its steady pulse just as expected: healthy and strong."

Clayborne Carson Martin Luther King, Jr., Centennial Professor of History, Stanford University
“An engrossing and inspiring story! I was moved by the loving spirit of those in the film and those who made it.”

Educational Media Reviews Online | Monique Threatt, Indiana University, Herman B Wells Library
"This viewer highly recommends this film for all age groups interested in African American studies, Music, and building self-confidence."

Video Librarian ★★★/4
"This touching documentary tells the story of a drum corps for African-American youth in Louisville, Kentucky, and the company’s founder and guiding light for three decades, Edward White. The film was shot at a particularly poignant moment in White’s tenure, as he prepares to step aside and turn the reins over to a former student, Albert Shumake. As one might expect, the occasion calls for a great deal of perspective, reminiscing, humility, and testimonials about both White’s inspirational leadership—which included teaching youngsters to build their own ornate instruments from industrial parts, cattle skin, and paint—and Shumake’s young character, which has been tested through his community’s challenges for black young men. We hear from several senior members of the corps, whose lives were enriched by White’s emphasis for kids on music as a channel to their African-American heritage. Happily, there’s no skimping on footage of the drum corps in performance, with all the panache, flourish and precision White has lovingly drilled into his charges for a generation. Strongly recommended."

"Inspirational and entertaining fare."

Steve Krahnke Senior Lecturer at Indiana University and Award Winning Producer
"Powerful, relevant and well made films are perfect tools for teaching a number of important liberal arts concepts. River City Drumbeat is one of those films. Students find the characters and conflict entirely relatable, yet they understand that filmmakers had to work hard in often uncomfortable or emotional situations to create the story without influencing the story itself. Students also learn that storytelling is the essence of education and so aspire to learn to tell important stories themselves."

Common Sense Media
"This is a touching, powerful documentary about a program that has empowered and educated generations of young Black musicians and students."

LA Weekly Movie Guide
“A must-see film for parents, kids, teachers, and all those who love music, this doc is balm for the news-battered spirit.”

Cathleen Dean Filmmaker and Educator
"Amazing visuals, and superior storytelling. River City Drumbeat is a cinematic delight that will warm your heart."

Joanne Nerenberg | Arts Educator
"Dazzling drum corps, inspiring stories of talented youth, and a deeply intimate portrait."

Film Threat
River City Drumbeat is an edifying story of rhythm, passion, and rites of passage ... It introduces a beautiful creative community of mentors, parents, and inspired youth working toward a better life than they’ve had.”

The Mercury News
“One of the most inspiring documentaries of the year ... an indie movie miracle, a reminder that there is kindness and compassion and community in this world...”

Mountain Xpress
“Powerful, inspiring ... 
River City Drumbeat is above all a testament to Black excellence.”

San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper
"It is a beautiful story of a legacy using art to build character ... The music is awesome; we dance as we cheer and cry and marvel at these young leaders groomed and stepping into responsibility with ease and joy."

San Francisco’s KALW Radio Station
RIVER CITY DRUMBEAT is a triumphant story about the power of an arts education”

SF Chronicle’s Datebook
"RIVER CITY DRUMBEAT shows the positive impact of music on at-risk youth”

Hot 105 | Jill Tracey, Host of Hot Talk with Jill Tracey
"RIVER CITY DRUMBEAT, in addition to showcasing extraordinary music and talent, is about the collective power of role models; and an example of the sheer force that different personalities can have in shaping destinies."

Alexander Smalls Grammy and Tony Award-winning singer, and James Beard Award-winning restaurateur
"I so appreciate the telling of this remarkable story and being allowed the privilege of witnessing the lives of ordinary people who face extraordinary challenges and win. Aside from being 'a feel good film' it was a testament of what the human spirit can achieve given the right recipe and support... How we as human beings have the power to change the course of each other's lives and be the strength and encouragement needed for ourselves and those we invest in. This is a story that brilliantly told itself...the cameras were so unobtrusive...allowing the magic to flow uninterrupted"

Michon Boston Impact Producer and Journalist
"I invite and encourage you to witness the power of music and culture in the lives of young people and their community by watching River City Drumbeat."

Jamie Bernstein | Author and Concert Narrator
"Amazing visuals, and superior storytelling. River City Drumbeat is a cinematic delight that will warm your heart."

Marlon Johnson is a ten-time Emmy award-winning producer and director. He has worked on award-winning documentary films exploring music and cultural issues like Symphony in D (2017); Emmy-winning Sunday’s Best (2010) and Coconut Grove: A Sense of Place (2005). The Ford Foundation commissioned Marlon to direct the documentary Breaking the Silence (2006) which chronicled the rise of HIV infection in the Black-American South. Marlon served as Head of Production and Senior Producer/Editor for Plum TV
and helped create TeleAmerica Broadcasting Network. His documentary Deep City: Birth of the Miami Sound (SXSW 2014) aired nation-wide on PBS. He has a B.S. in Communications from The University of Miami.
Anne Flatté is an award-winning filmmaker whose work highlights stories about music and community. She is a director and producer of Symphony for Nature (PBS, 2018), the web series Music Makes A City Now (YouTube/PBS.org), and producer of Serenade for Haiti (World premiere, DOCNYC 2016). She co-produced and edited Music Makes A City (2010), and the TV version for broadcast (PBS, 2014). Her editing credits include Monumental: David Brower’s Fight for Wild America (2004), What Do You Believe? (2003), Daughters and Sons (2005) and Devil’s Teeth (2005). Anne has an M.A. in documentary film from Stanford, where she directed the award-winning shorts Interlove Story and Body of Tradition. She has a B.A. in Middle Eastern Studies from UC Berkeley.