SXSW Film

Interviews and reviews

The Refugee All Stars

D: Zach Niles & Banker White

Sometimes, a story can be so big, rich, and complex that the documentarian telling it doesn't stand a chance. So it is with the story of refugees from war-torn Sierra Leone starting a dynamic band that would eventually play camps in West Africa, record an ambitious debut album in Freetown, Liberia, and venture back into their own personal hell on earth to share the music that "takes all the problems and all the suffering of the people and makes a song of it." But, just as one would be by often rudimentary or damaged or old guitars, drums, harmonicas, and voices holding their own – and even, to some extent, offsetting – years of devastation in every sense of the word, he might be surprised by the work of Zach Niles and Banker White. The Refugee All Stars is big and rich and complex itself, all while matching the optimism of its subjects. Personal, political, generous, and skillfully edited amid the pitfalls of melding performance footage, interviews, and archival context, it bursts off the screen with the brilliance and intensity that the band does onstage.

11:15am, Austin Convention Center

The Refugee All Stars band plays tonight, Thursday, March 16, 11pm, at Caribbean Lights.

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