IMDB Link: TOPOWA! Never Give Up (2020)
Directors: Inigo Gilmore, Philip Sansom
Stars: Wynton Marsalis
Synopsis: ‘TOPOWA!’ is an inspirational journey of 12 young teacher musicians, from the dusty dirt roads of Katwe slum to the paved streets of London and the fields of Cheltenham Festival.
This was the winning film of the Best Musical Documentary at the 2020 Raindance Film Festival, so I wanted to give this a watch. We are currently in a period where many of us are still on lockdown, and unable to see or meet up with anyone. I am not sure about you, but one thing I miss is the concert experience of going to a venue and seeing music performed live. This film reminded me why so many of us, like myself, love going to experience live music and reminds us of why music is so infectious.
This is the sort of film that we need right now, particularly from a documentary. This is feel-good at its highest, from how each musician is uplifted throughout to the group feeling of cheering on each member and supporting each other. It is so easy to get behind the subject, as each musician has a kind heart and simply wants to share their passion of music and make a difference in their lives.
This film has a secondary storyline about feminism and how women need to fight harder to be given the same chances that men are with music in Africa. This is such an empowering message and is once again captivating due to the people we follow, who are clearly passionate for what they stand for. What ends up happening in this film feels scripted, but that is because of how perfect the moment is and how it makes the final pieces of the documentary fit together.
This is also a fascinating look at life in Africa, presenting a viewpoint of the country that still shows the struggles of those who live there. There are some opening titles that roll, making the audience aware of the tough situations in the continent, particularly in the slums. This isn’t the main focus of the film, but it is still vital to highlight and I am glad that they did so here.
I do wish that the pace was tightened up a little with this film. There are sequences that do not feel as necessary, particularly in the first portion of the film. In contrast, the last section is almost rushed, hurrying us straight to the big performance and not letting the viewer soak in the experience like the band did. There are numerous reasons to celebrate at the end of the film, but the film doesn’t give us time to properly do so.
After some hard-hitting documentaries and with constant stress and worries in the real life, TOPOWA! Never Give Up is the exact type of documentary that I needed right now. It is a reminder that no matter what struggles you are facing right now, things will get better and to keep working at what you love. If you need to hear that and motivate yourself through these tough times, this film is here for you.