In South Africa in the 1950's, young journalist Henry Nxumalo helped fashion the magazine Drum into an outspoken voice against the repressive and dehumanizing effects of apartheid. Director Zola Moseka tells his story, from the lively Harlemesque nightlife of Sophiatown to the courageous infiltration of the farms and prisons outside of Johannesburg.
Taye Diggs gives a moving and multi-dimensional portrayal of Henry, supported by surprisingly strong performances from the entire cast. The film is shot completely in South Africa, and the sets and backdrops make for a much more believable period piece than you would expect to see from its $5 million budget.
One could argue that the movie too often uses an easy cliché and forced screen writing to keep the story tidy. But nevertheless, Drum manages to both educate and entertain. Those of us not intimately familiar with apartheid will find our eyes opened by the parallels to the civil rights struggles of our own country. At the same time, the story of Henry Nxumalo makes for a compelling narrative, and Moseka tells it with honesty and compassion.
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