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Mali's musicians contend with military coup and fanaticism in new documentary




Director Johanna Schwartz poses during the Filmmaker Afternoon Tea at the BFI London Film Festival at The Mayfair Hotel in London, England.
Director Johanna Schwartz poses during the Filmmaker Afternoon Tea at the BFI London Film Festival at The Mayfair Hotel in London, England.
John Phillips

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An intense new documentary takes viewers inside the war for Mali's culture and land - a west African country renowned for its powerful music and the compelling artists who create it.

"They Will Have to Kill Us First" has as much rhythm and heart as an Ali Farka Touré album.

Music is the beating heart of Malian culture, but when Islamic jihadists took control of northern Mali in 2012, they enforced one of the harshest interpretations of sharia law by banning all forms of music.

Radio stations were destroyed, instruments burned, and Mali’s musicians faced torture, even death. Overnight, the country’s revered musicians were forced into hiding or exile, where most remain -- even now. But rather than laying down their instruments, these courageous artists fought back, standing up for their freedoms and using music as a weapon against the ongoing violence that has ravaged their homeland.

The film takes you through the recent fighting and the struggles the artists reckon with as creators, Muslims, and Malians.

Guest:

Johanna Schwartz, Filmmaker, “They Will Have to Kill Us First