Beat the Drum is a drama about Musu (Junior Singo), a young South African Zulu village boy who loses both of his parents to AIDS. He is left to live with his grandmother and cousin. They are ostracized by the villagers because they are seen as having brought a plague to the village.
Musu decides to find his uncle in Johannesburg. He makes the trek to the city far away alone and quickly finds out that a village boy is no match for the thugs, the crime, the brutality and the impersonality of the huge city. Through an indomitable positive spirit and a single-minded vision he ends up making friends, learning lessons, and most importantly, teaching lessons to all those around him.
The movie is about AIDS and the devastating impact it has had on sub-Saharan Africa. Twelve million children have been orphaned by AIDS. Thirty million sub-Saharan Africans are infected with the disease. The African male has an attitude of superiority over women, and claims a right to have sex with whatever woman he chooses. In addition to that socio-sexual background, an aversion to condoms, and a general state of uneducatedness makes for a deadly cauldron of disease where the women and the children are endless victims. Beat the Drum is trying to beat the drum about this problem. Too bad it comes across like a patronizing high school AIDS education film when it deals with this reality.
The cinematography of the landscapes of South Africa makes up for this shortfall.
Watching Musu grow up fast in a dangerous world is an uplifting experience.