They Will Have to Kill Us First


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They Will Have To Kill Us First: Malian music in exile is a feature-length documentary following musicians in Mali in the wake of a jihadist takeover and subsequent banning of music. Music, one of the most important forms of communication in Mali, disappeared overnight in 2012 when Islamic extremists groups rose up to capture an area the size of the UK and France combined. But rather than lay down their instruments, Mali’s musicians fought back. Declared “Essential viewing” (Dazed & Confused), and “A gripping, powerful documentary”

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In 2012, three extremist groups captured most of the north Mali – an area the size of the UK and France combined. The cities were virtually shut down, sharia law was instituted and, crucially for Mali, all music was banned.

I remember very clearly reading about what was happening. I couldn’t imagine a world without music, especially in a place where music was so vital to everyday life. I began to plan my trip to Mali almost immediately.

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On my first day in Mali a fixer took me to the house where Khaira Arby, the “nightingale of the north”, was hiding out. We were in Bamako, the capital of Mali, where hundreds of thousands of northerners had fled when the extremists took power. The city was heaving. Inside of the house Khaira was renting, her band and extended family were restless. Music wasn’t banned in the south, but they seemed scared nonetheless. Khaira was a living contradiction. Strong yet afraid. Solid yet vulnerable. I knew then that this story could reach the world in a way that shouty headlines about Al Quaida spreading into Africa could not.

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I am so proud to bring these musician’s stories to the world. They’ve been through hell, and survived to sing about it. Though the conflict in Mali is still far from over, with extremist attacks continuing in the north and south to this day, I have no doubt that these musicians will continue to stand up and fight for their right to sing. click for more

Director: Johanna Schwartz



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