Throw it Down
If you think a film about marching drum corps can’t be anything special, prepare to be mesmerized. Throw it Down is a documentary by John Maher that follows the Blue Coats drum corps of Canton, Ohio from its first auditions to its final performance in 2006.
“We are not a band, we are drum corps – hands down, no ifs ands or butts about it,” drum major Joe Bertman declares in the early moments of the film. To think that the intensity associated with the drum corps is any less that on a football sideline, one would be severely mistaken
This isn’t picking up an instrument, walking in a straight line and playing a simple tune. It’s precision at its finest. Through a series of turns, steps and rotations, 135 individuals must transform themselves into a single entity in order to compete at the finals.
To achieve the level of success the Blue Coats aspire to, the corps spends 12 hours a day training over the summer months and when it all begins to take shape, it’s amazing. What once a jangled mass of humanity turns into a finely tuned beat machine. But their tribulations don’t stop there.
The road was the most surreal aspect of the film for me. A bus seat serves as the member’s home away from home for three-and-a-half months and their hotel suite is the floor of a gym at the host school. Each member has one suitcase, a sleeping bag and possibly an air mattress and that’s it.
The film also reveals that drum corps and marching bands go beyond the performers on the field. There are legions of family and friends behind the scenes that ensure the only thing on the players minds is performing.
The corps storms into the finals looking to improve on their fifth-place finish from a year ago. Will months of preparation push them over the top or will the months of pressure cause them to crack at the most inopportune time?
Throw it Down is a rare film in the sense that it actually needs to be longer. Viewers will become consumed with the culture of the corps and the camaraderie and bonds that are formed throughout the picture. At 88 minutes, the flick races to its conclusion and leaves us begging for more.
A truly wonderful film.