The "After School Special" Treatment
Drum is the story of a magazine, and one of its early and most important journalists. It's also a story of the beginnings of Apartheid in South Africa and the dismantling of Sofiatown. There is much about this time and place in history that should be kept alive and not all allowed to fade with the years.
That's the reason first time director Zola Maseko made this film, and it's entirely a shame that he mastered so well conventional filmmaking techniques that his debut became mired in them.
First off, consider the casting of Taye Diggs in the lead of Henry Nxumalo, the sports-turned-political reporter who uncovers the mechinations and cruelty of the white government. His leading-man musculature seems out of place for his character, much like Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles - but Diggs doesn't have that uncanny resemblance to a well-known figure to fall back upon.
Further, Diggs is made to wander through the terrain of familiar characters and plot devices. From Henry's philandering and transformation to concerned political activist, to a coworker falling in love illegally with a white woman, the film rattles off its key points as if from a checklist. Never do we really drop into any moment and get a real experience of it.
Drum received a standing ovation in the biggest venue at Sundance, a fact I attribute to the political significance of the film. We get the information from the film we're supposed to get, and it's delivered in a very competent fashion, but not in a very artistic or deeply emotional way.
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