Okayafrica's Top 15 Films Of 2015
Okayafrica staff and contributors weigh in on 2015's best films from Africa and the diaspora.
They Will Have to Kill Us First (dir. Johanna Schwartz, UK/Mali)
The title of Johanna Schwartz's documentary, They Will Have to Kill Us First—which portrays Mali’s musical landscape in the wake of the country’s 2012 islamic fundamentalist insurgency—succinctly sums up the importance of music to Malians. For this reason, it’s with a heavy heart that one watches Schwartz’s depiction of a society violently robbed of a cultural facet so valued by its citizens; it’s also what lends the film its gravitas.
They Will Have to Kill Us First provides a historical context into the conditions of Sharia law imposed in Northern Mali since 2012, which saw the banning of all music-making in that region. More notably though, by following the narrative threads of several musicians both from the North and other parts of Mali, the film provides a portrait of the indomitable spirit that defines the Malian people. If anything, the film is worth watching alone for the beautifully shot footage of Mali’s countryside, accompanied by the driving rhythm of the film's protagonists, Songhoy Blues, a phoenix-of-a-band risen from the ashes of their former, pre-insurgency lives.