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Finding Her Beat cover image

Finding Her Beat 2022

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Good Docs
Produced by Dawn Mikkelson and Jennifer Weir
Directed by Dawn Mikkelson and Keri Pickett
Streaming, 88 mins

College - General Adult
Asian American History; LGBTQIA+; Music; Women's History

Date Entered: 09/27/2023

Reviewed by Jodi Hoover, Digital Resources Manager, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore, MD

Just a few weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns, an audience in St. Paul, Minnesota experienced a once in a lifetime musical performance. Created and produced by Japanese drum master and Korean adoptee Jennifer Weir, this event showcases the talent of female Taiko drummers who have traditionally been excluded from this artform. Finding Her Beat, directed by Dawn Mikkleson and Keri Pickett, documents the development of this world class event and the collaborative spirit of the drummers who participated.

Taiko drumming encompasses a wide range of traditional Japanese percussion instruments. The artform became increasingly popular in postwar Japan and there are now Taiko troupes all over the world. Traditionally women have been excluded from Taiko in part because the strength and physicality required are seen as “unfeminine”. Throughout the film the artists speak frankly of the struggle they’ve faced and that their contributions to the artform have consistently been overlooked.

As the performance moves from concept to reality and the women gather to begin rehearsals, news of COVID-19 epidemic begins to break in the US. Through health concerns and knowledge that other performance opportunities were already being canceled the group retains focus and moves forward with the rehearsals. The film concludes with footage from the night of the performance which is magical if a little unsettling as we view the unmasked faces of attendees in the sold-out performance.

As the story unfolds there are many moments where the artists in the film discuss issues of gender discrimination as well as feelings of not belonging due to adoption, queerness or racial discrimination. These moments are interwoven with footage showing the tremendous work required to put on a performance and of course, jaw-dropping performance footage. This film is highly recommended for general collections as well as collections with a focus on music, performance, Asian Studies or Gender Studies.

BEST MUSIC DOCUMENTARY, Melbourne Documentary Film Festival; JURY PRIZE, Satisfied Eye International Film Festival; BEST DOCUMENTARY & AUDIENCE AWARD FOR BEST DOCUMENTARY, DisOrient Asian American Film Festival of Oregon

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