The Joy of Drumming and Documentaries


I just finished teaching a Documentary Film Studies course at Pierce College for three consecutive quarters. By this time of year I am usually ready for fantasy, action-adventure movies, cartoons… anything to take my mind off the depressing content that I show in my class! Don’t get me wrong; I try to inspire my students to take action; they laugh at the absurdity of Michael Moore’s Sicko and we debate whether Banksy and Mr. Brainwash are actually the same person (If you haven’t seen Exit Through the Giftshop, I highly recommend it) – but let’s face it, most documentaries are real downers.

NOT so, with the film by David L. Brown that I most recently helped on as an Associate Producer. Keeper of the Beat: A Woman’s Journey Into the Heart of Drumming is a true joy to watch. This was especially true when I attended the premiere at the Mill Valley Film Festival last October. Barbara Borden, the amazing woman drummer and film’s subject, is based in the Bay Area and the crowd that came out to see her was rowdy and mightily enthused. They clapped throughout the film, they laughed and gasped at key moments. And when Barbara Borden came onto the stage to play for them at the end of the film, the audience erupted in gleeful applause. Any tedium that I might have experienced, in the months I spent licensing the bounty of women’s music for this film, instantly fell away and I was completely caught up in the excitement of the evening.

I’m sorry that I can’t recreate that moment for you and, like Barbara, use the drum to build bridges across cultures through time and space. But I invite you to see this film when it screens on KQED, Channel 9, in the Bay Area on Sunday July 6th at 6:00 p.m. Bring a pot to bang on or stick some spoons in your pocket. You’ll want to play along!

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