They Will Have to Kill Us First (2016) - Rotten Tomatoes

They Will Have to Kill Us First (2016)

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Music is the beating heart of Malian culture. But when Islamic hardliners took control of northern Mali in 2012, they enforced one of the harshest interpretations of sharia law in history and, crucially for Mali, they banned all forms of music. Radio stations were destroyed, instruments burned and Mali's musicians faced torture, even death. Overnight, Mali's revered musicians were forced into hiding or exile where most remain even now. But rather than lay down their instruments, the musicians are fighting back, standing up for their cultural heritage and identity. Through everything, they have used music as their weapon against the on-going violence that has left Mali ravaged. They Will Have To Kill Us First begins with musicians on the run, reveals footage of the jihadists, captures life at refugee camps, follows perilous journeys home to battle scarred cities, and witnesses our two female characters perform at the first public concert in Timbuktu since the music ban. The stories of these artists are told without gloss - they are sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes inspirational, and sometimes incredibly frustrating as we watch musicians make tough choices about their futures. The situation in Mali forms part of an alarming trend: across the globe, extremists are attacking culture, art and freedom with increasing frequency and violence. They use religion to justify rampant destruction and murder. They Will Have To Kill Us First draws audiences into the human side of Mali's conflict, watches events as they unfold and witnesses the impact on Mali's musical community. With a specially commissioned soundtrack from Mali's most exciting artists, a score written by the Yeah Yeah Yeah's Nick Zinner, They Will Have To Kill Us First leaps headfirst into a tale of courage in the face of conflict.

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Critic Reviews for They Will Have to Kill Us First

All Critics (17) | Top Critics (5)

Mostly, the film documents how a rich musical tradition continues to captivate listeners around the world even as its practitioners are struggling at home.

April 1, 2016 | Full Review…

Much like the transporting 2014 Oscar-nominated narrative film Timbuktu, which dealt with the same topic, They Will Have to Kill Us First is both bracing and beautiful.

March 31, 2016 | Rating: 4.5/5

Delivers a vibrant testimony of resilience under oppression.

March 3, 2016 | Full Review…

A profile in courage but also groove.

March 3, 2016 | Full Review…

Stirring yet overstuffed ...

March 3, 2016 | Rating: B- | Full Review…

They Will Have to Kill Us First sends a clear message from Mali's musicians to their oppressors-you can turn cities into ghost towns, take away radio stations, and destroy instruments, but we'll never stop making music.

August 21, 2017 | Full Review…

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