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World Premiere DOC NYC 2019 | "INCREDIBLE FILM" - Miami Herald | SXSW EDU FILM SELECTION

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 is a powerful story of music, love, and legacies set in the American South. Edward "Nardie" White devoted his life to leading the African-American drum corps he co-founded with Zambia Nkrumah in Louisville, Kentucky three decades ago. Together they inspired youth from their West Louisville neighborhood to thrive by connecting them with the art and cultural traditions of their African ancestors. Now Albert Shumake, whose destiny was shaped by the drumline, must take up the mantle for the next generation. Meanwhile, student drummers Imani, Jailen, and Emily navigate adolescence and life changes. River City Drumbeat follows this creative community of mentors, parents, and youth making their way in a world where systemic forces raise obstacles to fulfilling their dreams.

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."

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.” 

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."

WLRN-FM (NPR) | Caitie Switalski
"The film RIVER CITY DRUMBEAT by Miami native and Emmy-award winning Marlon Johnson tells the story of a group of kids and teenagers based in Louisville, Kentucky, who are learning about their African ancestry through drumming....The main character Edward White has dedicated his life to leading the drum corps. The film takes viewers through a critical moment where White passes the torch to one of his former students, Albert. It's up to Albert to now lead the drumline and train the next generation."

Miami Herald | Michelle Solomon
"[Marlon Johnson] and Anne Flatté were approached by producer/filmmaker Owsley Brown, who was born and raised in Louisville, about an African-American drum corps from a West Louisville neighborhood that thrives by being connected through music, art and the cultural traditions of their African ancestors. The documentary follows the group’s founder, Edward 'Nardie' White, who was retiring after three decades — and highlights his dedication to community drum corps and the training of his successor Albert Shumake, whose troubled life, much like Johnson’s story, was transformed by participating in the after-school arts program."

Hot 105 | Jill Tracey, Host of Hot Talk with Jill Tracey
"An incredible film by Miami Native Marlon Johnson and Anne Flatté - veteran documentary filmmakers whose exquisite work has been a staple at the Miami Film Festival. With RIVER CITY DRUMBEAT, they may have created their most profound and powerful film yet. 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."

CreativMag.com | Corhinn Brunoton
"It is a fact that hardship hits black and brown communities the most in these United States of America, and because of this generational curse certain luxuries such as art education are not priorities for some of these families. However, knowing the effect that art can have on the imaginative child’s brain, it opens up so many opportunities and creates a new outlook on life as this child grows despite the environment they grow up in. However community stapes such as Edward White, who devoted his life to leading the River City Drum Corp (RCDC), make a difference in the life of hundreds of these children in the past 30 years. Anne Flatte and Miami Native Marlon Johnson, directors of the movie RIVER CITY DRUMBEAT capture the integral moments of his journey as he not only grooms his replacement but also impacts the new generation of future leaders in the process."

San Francisco International Film Festival  
"For 30 years, Ed 'Nardie' White has dedicated his life to uplifting and empowering African-American youth through the River City Drum Corps, teaching kids about their African roots and culture through music.  Filmmakers Marlon Johnson and Anne Flatté spent years in Louisville, KY, filming the charismatic founder and the many children he inspired. As he prepares to pass the torch to his successor and former student Albert, Nardie also reflects on the triumphs and bittersweet losses of the past three decades. RIVER CITY DRUMBEAT is an inspirational story of music, love, and legacy set in the American South. Recommended for ages 10 and up. 'As filmmakers, we are committed to experiential and cinematic content over dispensing information. We had a minimal crew who were invested in the human relationships first. We find this kind of filmmaking leads to organic truths being revealed, authentic moments that bring the viewer into a meaningful relationship with the protagonists.' – Marlon Johnson and Anne Flatté"

Louisville Magazine | Chris Kenning
"RIVER CITY DRUMBEAT, which follows the students through drumline battles like the Da’Ville Classic Drum Line Showcase, also shows RCDC members at home and at practice as they navigate the end of high school. In one scene, White visits the nationally lauded Louisville sculptor Ed Hamilton in his downtown studio. Hamilton talks to his friend and fellow arts leader about encouraging teachers from his past. 'Somebody had to say, ‘You got something,’' Hamilton says to White. 'That’s what you do.'"

Louisville Courier-Journal | Kirby Adams
"…an example of what can happen when children are offered compassion, opportunity and a place to explore their creativity. 'River City Drum Corps exposed me to a different side of life that I wasn't getting from my parents. It was a great feeling to have people who were interested in my interests and my well-being,' [Shumake] said. 'Mr. White and Zambia's belief in me allowed me to be comfortable as a person who values creativity, and now I am in the position to pass on those values.' Besides the transition from White to Shumake, the film follows senior high school students Jailen Leavell and Imani Keith as they prepare to leave the drum corps and go off to college. The audience also watches as younger members rise through the ranks to fill Leavell and Keiths' places in the drumline. 'The philosophy of the River City Drum Corps is that every child deserves to thrive. The arts are a key part of that equation, and communities must provide those children time, resources and mentors so they can succeed,' said Johnson. 'I believe every child needs the chance to connect with the arts, and this film tells the story of what results when that connection is fostered.'"

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 privileged 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... Again I thank you for telling this powerful story…"

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

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."

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.