Drum Zola Maseko

BY Erin OkePublished Nov 17, 2016

Drum is a welcome change in the cinematic portrayal of apartheid-era South Africa. Instead of showing the time through the eyes of a well-meaning liberal white person (i.e., Cry Freedom, The Power of One...), Drum has as its protagonist Henry Nxumalo (Taye Diggs), a black journalist writing for Africa's popular Drum Magazine. Based on true events, the film is set in post-World War Two Johannesburg just after the Nationalist government of South Africa introduced its stringent Apartheid legislation. The film chronicles the increasing politicisation of Drum Magazine, the main voice of urban black culture in 1950s Africa, as led by Henry's investigative journalism. The huge events of the time are illustrated through their impact on Henry's life and work, as he is transformed from a glib sportswriter to a serious journalist, going undercover as a farm labourer and in prison to illuminate the widespread mistreatment of blacks. This is an interesting story that's well told by South African director Zola Maseko. Its portrayal of the era's black culture is far more complex than anything we've seen before, showing us not only the oppressed masses but the beatniks and cultural elite who wrote for the magazine, the gangsters who controlled the speakeasies of Sophiatown and the rising political activists of the A.N.C. as led by a young Nelson Mandela. Taye Diggs is wonderful in the lead role, offering a compelling turn as the flawed Henry, whose pursuit of the story is sometimes reckless, and whose relationship with his family is far from admirable. The script is sometimes overly obvious but the great cast, direction and story make up for that. (Armada)

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