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They Will Have to Kill Us First (2015)

Not Rated | | Documentary | 4 March 2016 (USA)
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In 2012, jihadists took control of Northern Mali, imposing one of the harshest interpretations of sharia law in recent years and, crucially for Mali, banning music. Radio stations were ... See full summary »


Johanna Schwartz


Andy Morgan
2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »





Cast overview:
Aliou Touré Aliou Touré ... Himself - Lead Singer, Songhoy Blues
Oumar Touré Oumar Touré ... Himself - Guitar, Songhoy Blues
Garba Touré Garba Touré ... Himself - Guitar, Songhoy Blues
Nathanael Dembélé Nathanael Dembélé ... Himself - Drummer, Songhoy Blues
Khaira Arby Khaira Arby ... Herself - Singer
Fadimata 'Disco' Walett Oumar Fadimata 'Disco' Walett Oumar ... Herself - Singer
Moussa Sidi Moussa Sidi ... Himself - Guitarist (as Moussa Ag Sidi)
Hassan Mehdi Hassan Mehdi ... Himself - Former Mouvement National de Liberation de l'Azawad Fighter
Marc-Antoine Moreau Marc-Antoine Moreau ... Himself - Music Manager
Nick Zinner Nick Zinner ... Himself - Guitarist, Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Fadi Fadi ... Herself - Moussa Ag Sidi's Wife
Tartit Tartit ... Themselves


In 2012, jihadists took control of Northern Mali, imposing one of the harshest interpretations of sharia law in recent years and, crucially for Mali, banning music. Radio stations were destroyed, instruments were burned and overnight, Mali's musicians were forced into hiding or exile where many remain even now. Follow these musicians as they fight to keep music alive. Featuring rare footage of the jihadists, a glimpse at life in refugee camps and the perilous journeys home to war-ravaged cities, THEY WILL HAVE TO KILL US FIRST is a tale of courage in the face of conflict as Malian musicians refuse to give up the fight for their right to sing.

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French | Songhay | English | Bambara | Tamashek

Release Date:

4 March 2016 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Grajmy dopóki nas nie zabiją See more »

Filming Locations:

Bamako, Mali See more »


Box Office


£400,000 (estimated)
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User Reviews

Notes of resistance
30 March 2016 | by ferguson-6See all my reviews

Greetings again from the darkness. Where there is oppression, there is often courage. Director Johanna Schwartz and her film crew have produced a remarkably informative and well-made documentary. The film hits the target in putting on display the effects of the 2012 Islamic Jihadists invasion of northern Mali (Geo, Timbuktu) and the institution of Sharia Law.

Malian culture is steeped in music, which is used for education, entertainment and history. Radio stations were shuttered and musical instruments were burned. Many famous musicians escaped to Bamako and other areas rather than risk torture and execution. Director Schwartz interviews many of these musicians and we get defiant quotes such as "Our way of resisting is our instruments", and "We think of ourselves as ambassadors of our country." In other words, these musicians understand the cultural and political impact of continuing to make music. Their goal is to spread the message widely. We also see film of a refugee camp where women are staying strong in the face of adversity – hopeful of better days ahead.

2014 peace talks in Algeria led to an official cease fire in 2015, but most locals remain cautious. With the help of globally known performers such as Brian Eno and Nick Zimmer, a Gig for Exiled Musicians was organized for Timbuktu, and it allowed for re-visiting the village and the city – now mostly a bombed out shell. Many homes and historical sites in the ancient cities were destroyed by the terrorists.

These atrocities give that much more strength to the musicians, and we are especially taken by female singers Khaira and Disco, and the local band Songhoy Blues. The perspective of those most affected proves quite powerful, and is a reminder of just how strong the human spirit can be. It's a film that should be seen by many, and one director Schwartz should be quite proud.

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