Father and child sit together smiling while looking at a smart phone.

Want more recommendations for your family?

Sign up for our weekly newsletter for entertainment inspiration

Parents' Guide to

River City Drumbeat

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Uplifting, heartfelt docu about life-changing drum corps.

Movie NR 2020 95 minutes
River City Drumbeat Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 10+

Based on 2 parent reviews

age 10+

A powerful, beautiful, important—and timely—film

What a powerful, beautiful, important—and timely—film. It showcases a perfect example of programming that makes a true difference in the Black community, more of which needs to be supported and funded with the BLM and defund the police movements. I found it not only enormously inspirational but also highly entertaining. I definitely want my two teenage kids (17 and 14) to see this.

This title has:

Great messages
Great role models
age 10+

Wonderful, uplifting, lovely film

I watched this film with my two teenagers and husband. The film creates space for important conversations about community, identity, representation and how music, culture and history are important. The young drummers, their families and their mentors tell their stories with honesty and passion. We laughed with them and cried with them, and are thankful for the lasting hope and inspiration.

This title has:

Great messages
Great role models

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (2 ):
Kids say: Not yet rated

This is a touching, powerful documentary about a program that has empowered and educated generations of young Black musicians and students. Co-directors Flatté and Johnson beautifully capture the triumph of Nardie and Zambia's mission not only to teach kids how to play the drums but also to provide a cultural understanding of their heritage through African percussion. The program is more than a class or activity: It's a community that supports kids through and beyond their high school graduation, which is why the portions featuring Nardie's successor, Albert Shumake, are so poignant. Here's proof that being seen, acknowledged, and encouraged as a child can be hugely influential. And seeing how the program continues to shape the lives of Black high schoolers, many of whom take their drumming skills to drum lines at historically Black colleges and universities, is incredibly heartwarming.

The filmmakers don't shy away from sadder aspects of Nardie's journey. Much of River City Drumbeat is a tribute to his late wife, who died of cancer. There's also an upsetting, emotional retelling of how Nardie and Zambia's granddaughter was killed after getting involved in a retaliatory gang shooting. It's heartbreaking to watch Nardie, who's helped so many children, discuss the guilt of not being able to do the same for his own granddaughter. But there are far greater moments of joy as both current and former students thank the group for instilling in them a sense of purpose, an appreciation of African culture, and a structure that helped them succeed both in and out of school.

Movie Details

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate