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Directed by Whitney Dow
FEATURE DOCUMENTARY 84 Minutes World Premiere

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.

Documentary, Music
About the Director(s)
WHITNEY DOW is an award-winning filmmaker whose directing credits include Two Towns of Jasper, I Sit Where I Want: The Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education, and Unfinished Country. His work has received numerous honors, including the Peabody, Columbia DuPont, Gotham, and Beacon awards.
Special Note

Screenings of When the Drum is Beating are co-hosted by


On April 22, When the Drum is Beating is part of the Tribeca Drive-in®. Join us!

Friday, April 22

World Financial Center Plaza

The 20-member band Septentrional has been making music for 62 years as Haiti’s most celebrated big band. Join us for a special sneak preview of this poignant and high-energy documentary about the music that cultivated, carried, and inspired a nation—after you see excerpts from their story on-screen, stick around to watch the Haitian-Caribbean jazz fusion band Septentrional perform live!

Tribeca Drive-in opens at 6:00 pm.
Activities and programming begin at 6:30 pm.
Film screenings start at dusk (approx. 8:15 pm).

Co-sponsored by:


Hosted by Brookfield, owner of the World Financial Center.


Film Info
  • Section:
  • Year:
  • Length:
    84 minutes
  • Language:
    English, Creole
  • Country:
  • Premiere:
  • Connect:
Cast & Credits
  • Primary Cast:
    Nikol Levy, Michel Tassy, Ulrick Pierre-Louis, Jocelyn "T-Bass" Alce, Yvenel "Saure" Etienne, Orchestre Septentrional
  • Director:
    Whitney Dow
  • Producer:
    Daniel Morel, Jane Regan, Jennifer Latham
  • Editor:
    Nancy Kennedy, Federico Rosenzvit, Hemal Trivedi
  • Executive Producer:
    Marco Williams
  • Camera & Sound:
    Tom Hurwitz, Eddie Marritz, Mark Mandler, John Zecca, Jonathan Fumanski, Neils Alpert



When tickets for a screening or event are no longer available, they will be listed as RUSH. The Rush system functions as a stand-by line that will form at the venue approximately 45 minutes prior to scheduled start time. Admittance is based on availability and will begin 15 minutes prior to program start time. Rush Tickets are the same price as advance tickets payable upon entry. There is a limit of one Rush Ticket per person.