A rhythmic meeting of music and history, When the Drum Is Beating brilliantly interweaves the stories of Haiti and its most celebrated band, Septentrional. With its distinctive fusion of Cuban big band rhythms and Haitian vodou beats, the 20-piece band has been around for more than six decades. The constant thread through this documentary is not just the music, but the fact that Septentrional has survived for so long in a country that has endured dictatorships, natural disasters, and coups d'état is a reflection of the resilience of the Haitian people.
Archival footage and historical context seamlessly work with the stories of the band members, who reflect on their memories, dreams, and hopes. Director Whitney Dow skillfully parallels the two stories and keeps the pace going with live concert footage and intimate rehearsal moments. The spirit of the members of Septentrional and the Haitian people is palpable. Dow turns this deserving tribute into a celebratory story of amazing musicians who, through it all, have kept their passion alive.