Synopsis: In Haiti, there is one band that has seen it all: Septentrional. For six decades this 20 piece band has been making passionate, beautiful music – a fusion of Cuban big band and Haitian voodoo beats – through dictatorships, natural disasters, coup d’états, and chaos, navigating the ups and downs, the glory and the tragedy that is Haiti’s history.
When the Drum is Beating interweaves the extraordinary story of Septentrional with that of Haiti: from the brutality of French colonialism and the bloody revolution that brought Haitians their freedom, to the crushing foreign debt and the 15 year American occupation that ushered in the brutal dictatorship of François “Papa Doc” Duvalier. We see the hope that was created by Jean Bertrand Aristide, and the despair that followed after he was driven from power. And we are there as Haiti endures an earthquake that kills almost 300,000 people and tears apart the social fabric of the country.
Through its sweeping narrative, infectious music and tension-filled encounters, the film allows the viewer to see, feel and hear the passion, commitment and joy of Septentrional’s musicians, and through them, the unique Haitian spirit.