October 9, 2015

BBC Worldwide North America to Release Music Documentary in Early 2016 They Will Have to Kill Us First: Malian Music in Exile

New York, NY – BBC Worldwide North America announced today the release of They Will Have To Kill Us First: Malian Music in Exile, slated for 2016. The film, which premiered at the SXSW Film Festival in March 2015, was hailed by Indiewire as “a gripping, powerful documentary…,” will be making its European premiere at the London Film Festival later this month. They Will Have To Kill Us First is directed by Johanna Schwartz, and co-written by Schwartz and Andy Morgan, renowned journalist and former manager of Grammy® Award winning band Tinariwen. It is produced by Sarah Mosses of Together Films and executive produced by Andre Singer (The Act of Killing) alongside Stephen Hendel, Victoria Steventon, OKAY Africa and Knitting Factory Entertainment with an original score by Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs).

Islamic extremists have banned music in Mali, but its world famous musicians won’t give up without a fight. They Will Have To Kill Us First tells the story of Mali’s music makers as they fight for their right to sing. With a specially commissioned soundtrack from some of Mali’s most exciting artists, the film follows the stories of musicians Kharia Arby, Fadimata “Disco” Walet Oumar, Moussa Sidi, and introducing Songhoy Blues.

“The strength and courage of the musicians in Mali is so inspiring. In They Will Have To Kill Us First, director Johanna Schwartz has captured the struggle, the hardships, but most of the all the musical masterpieces that the Malian musicians create. This film is a true testament to the power of music and portrays what can be accomplished when musicians refuse to give in to the extremists and never put down their instruments,” states Soumya Sriraman, EVP Film, Home Entertainment and Licensing for BBC Worldwide North America. “This film is an important addition to our release slate and re-affirms our commitment to bringing intelligent, powerful films to the big screen.”

“I always look for personal, emotionally engaging stories that are able to shed light on issues of wider resonance and that is exactly what I found with the banning of music in Mali,” said director/producer Johanna Schwartz. “I knew this story had scope to reach an audience across the world, but we needed the right partner. BBC Worldwide had the electric creativity and a standard of distinctive story-telling which thrilled me. We have all, as a team, used the courage and indefatigable spirit of Mali’s musicians to inspire our own work on this film.

“When Johanna first described the situation in Mali, I was shocked to learn the effect the crisis was having on musicians across the country and felt compelled to join the team to bring this story to a wider audience.” said producer Sarah Mosses. “We are thrilled to be working with the experienced team at BBC Worldwide to ensure that audiences across North America get to experience the beauty of Malian music through Johanna’s bold debut feature.”

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 in history and 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 laying down their instruments, they are fighting back, standing up for their freedoms and identity. Throughout the struggle, they have used their music as a weapon against the ongoing violence that has left Mali ravaged.

They Will Have To Kill Us First sees musicians on the run, tells the story of the uprising of Touareg separatists, reveals rare footage of the jihadists, captures life at refugee camps where money and hope are scarce, charts perilous journeys to war-ravaged cities, and follows our characters as they set up and perform at the first public concert in Timbuktu since the music ban.