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River City Drumbeat – New Documentary from Owsley Brown Presents – Makes Three More Festival Appearances This Winter, On Heels of Last Fall’s Sold-Out Screenings at DOC NYC

On the heels of its world premiere in two sold-out screenings at the DOC NYC film festival last fall, River City Drumbeat, the uplifting feature documentary directed by Marlon Johnson and Anne Flatté and produced by Owsley Brown Presents, is gaining nation-wide attention and will have three more showings this winter. On March 7, it premieres in Florida in Johnson’s hometown at the Miami Film Festival. The film then makes its Texas premiere on March 11 at the SXSW EDU Film Festival, where it will be the only arts education film in an exclusive group of fourteen films screened for 8,000 educators from all 50 states. The documentary then returns home for its Kentucky premiere at the Flyover Film Festival on March 15.

River City Drumbeat tells the story of Edward “Nardie” White, who has devoted his life to leading the River City Drum Corp (RCDC), an ensemble he co-founded with his wife, Zambia Nkrumah, in Louisville, Kentucky, to offer the youth of their West Louisville neighborhood a path to empowerment by connecting them with the art and cultural traditions of their African ancestors. A multigenerational story of music, love, and legacies set against the backdrop of the American South, the film is a timely reminder of the racial and economic issues at play in American society, the transformative power of music, and the incredible change one person can create. “Our culture is going to be our savior,” White says in the film. “If we tap back into that culture you’ll find out that’s where the power is at.”

The film chronicles the period of transition as White confronts the need to step down as director of RCDC and pass the mantle to the next generation. He chooses Albert Shumake, an alum who credits the program with saving his own life, to be the new leader. At the same time, White – now a widower at age sixty-five – fulfills a promise he made to his late wife, Zambia: to see her last cohort through to their high school graduations. Meanwhile, high school seniors Imani and Jailen and pre-teen Emily navigate their own major life changes. Attending the film’s Louisville premiere on March 15 will be film directors Marlon Johnson and Anne Flatté; producer Owsley Brown; film protagonists Edward White, Albert Shumake, Jailen Leavell, and Imani Keith; and RCDC and community members who appear in the film, including the renowned Louisville sculptor Ed Hamilton.

Director Marlon Johnson is a ten-time Emmy Award winner as both producer and director. He has worked on documentary films exploring music and cultural issues like Symphony in D, the Emmy-winning Sunday’s Best and Coconut Grove: A Sense of Place. He directed the Ford Foundation-commissioned documentary Breaking the Silence, which chronicled the rise of HIV infection in African-American communities in the South. With River City Drumbeat he tells a story of great personal relevance, as he explains:

“Often, art films involving youth follow a competition model, but we wanted to take a narrative approach that more closely aligned with the River City Drum Corp’s non-competitive philosophy. Mr. White has taken the long view when it comes to his corps members – building up their inner leadership and life skills so they can go on to carry those lessons into the rest of their lives. As a result, the drum corps is a strong tree rooted in African American culture, and its members and alumni are the fruit of that tree.

“I grew up in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami, where art’s influence in my life led me to become an accomplished filmmaker. The River City Drum Corp philosophy – that every child deserves to thrive, that the arts are a key part of that equation, and that communities must provide those children time, resources, and mentors so they can succeed – resonates deeply with my own life experience and values. I believe every child needs the chance to connect with the arts, and this film tells the story of a what results when that connection is fostered.”

Filmmaker Anne Flatté has produced, directed and edited many independent documentaries, and has focused on music- and community-related subjects over the past 15 years. She produced Serenade for Haiti (Serenad pou Ayiti), a feature-length documentary directed by Owsley Brown that tells the story of a remarkable music school located in the heart of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, before and after the devastating earthquake of 2010. She was also the director/producer of Symphony for Nature and the original web series Music Makes A City Now, both of which featured Teddy Abrams, the galvanizing young director of the Louisville Orchestra and Oregon’s Britt Festival Orchestra.

A teaser for River City Drumbeat can be seen here, and a press kit is available here.

About Owsley Brown Presents

Owsley Brown Presents (OBP) is an independent motion picture production company that produces original contemporary media works with an emphasis on artistic integrity and creative exploration. OBP productions include award-winning, feature-length documentaries that have enjoyed distribution at film festivals, as well as theatrical and broadcast television release worldwide. OBP also develops and produces creative programming for distribution on the Internet and other digital platforms.

Click here to download high-resolution photos.


Florida, Texas and Kentucky Premieres of River City Drumbeat

Directors: Marlon Johnson, Anne Flatté
Producers: Owsley Brown, Anne Flatté, Marlon Johnson
Directors of Photography: Juan Carlos Castañeda, John Anderson Beavers
Editor: Jeff Boyette
Sound Design: Richard Beggs
Original Music: B. Quincy Griffin 

March 7
Miami, FL
Miami Film Festival at the Tower Theater

March 11
Austin, TX
SXSW EDU at the Austin Convention Center

March 15
Louisville, KY
Flyover Film Festival at the Louisville Palace

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© 21C Media Group, February 2020

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