2015, 99 minutes

Documentary Website

Music is the beating heart of Malian culture. But when Islamic hardliners took control of northern Mali in 2012, they enforced one of the harshest interpretations of sharia law in history and, crucially for Mali, they 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 lay down their instruments, the musicians are fighting back, standing up for their cultural heritage and identity. Through everything, they have used music as their weapon against the on-going violence that has left Mali ravaged.

THEY WILL HAVE TO KILL US FIRST begins with musicians on the run, reveals rare footage of the jihadists, captures life at refugee camps, follows perilous journeys home to battle scarred cities, and witnesses our two female characters perform at the first public concert in Timbuktu since the music ban. The stories of these artists are told without gloss – they are sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes inspirational, and sometimes incredibly frustrating as we watch musicians make tough choices about their futures.

With a specially commissioned soundtrack from Mali’s most exciting artists, a score written by the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Nick Zinner, They Will Have To Kill Us First leaps headfirst into a tale of courage in the face of conflict.

To get a copy of your chosen film, please contact distributor Together Films at . Please cite ‘Moving Worlds, special Refugee Week‘ package in your email so you can pay the discounted screening fee of £50. Don’t forget to check out the complementary post-screening resources to help navigate public conversations.


Awards & Nominations

BFI London Film Festival (2015)

15)WOMEX Film Selection


Santa Fe Independent Film Festival (2015)

Oiff Official Selection (2015)

indieBo (2015)

hotDOCS (2015)

Frederick Film Festival (2015)

Durban International Film Festival

CPH:DOX (2015)

CIMM:FEST (2015)

RIDM (2015)

Post-screening conversation questions

  1. How does the interweaving of different voices (narrator, news media presenters, musicians) enrich the storytelling form of this film and how does it impact our interpretation of such complex socio-political issues?
  2. How does the film itself work as an advocacy tool?
  3. What is the role of music as a form of resistance against the banning of music? How is this supported visually?
  4. How is this documentary different to other traditional documentaries in terms of of its tone and music video-inspired aesthetics? Why do you think that is?


Moving Worlds Resource Page for THEY WILL HAVE TO KILL US FIRST

Documentary press kit & resources

They Will Have to Kill Us First: Malian Music in Exile review – musicians v jihadists, The Guardian

They Will Have to Kill Us First: Tales of Musical Exile from Mali, Music Film Web article