MADE IN JAMAICA
Director: Jerome Laperrousaz
Year: 2006 Minutes: 110
Genre: Musical Documentary
MADE IN JAMAICA is a powerful portrait of the leaders of the Jamaican music movement and how Reggae in particular became a worldwide phenomenon. It is the story of how a small island nation in the Caribbean of only three million people took their human experience and turned it into songs full of emotions that resonate around the world.” Reggae is Jamaica’s blues: a music of both desperation and hope.
Never before has a single feature film presented the leaders of the Reggae music movement with the intensity that MADE IN JAMAICA does. The film features Grammy Award Winner Toots, Gregory Isaacs, Bunny Wailer (Bob Marley’s brother), 2006 Grammy Award Nominees Third World, Shia and Cat Core, Beres Hammond, Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, Alaine Laugthon, Tanya Stephens, Bounty Killer, Blessed, Elephant Man, Lady Saw, Joseph Current, Vybz Kartel, Brick and Lace, Dr. Marshall, Capleton, Koolant, and Left Side & Esco.
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Made In Jamaica
(out of 4)
A documentary directed by Jérôme Laperrousaz. 120 minutes. At AMC Yonge-Dundas. PG
Made in Jamaica opens with the death of Kingston dancehall icon Bogle, as ministers, warlords and musicians attend his funeral, his body carried in an Escalade hearse.
"We are a great people and we will be great again," says a eulogist. "Our music is what put Jamaica on the map. It will not come from killing each other."
Using the 2005 shooting of the dancer as a starting point, director Jérôme Laperrousaz examines contemporary reggae music through the lens of its explosive and sometimes troubled dancehall culture.
Beautifully shot and mixed, Laperrousaz successfully juxtaposes the mayhem that is dancehall, a kind of amped-up and krunk-ified reggae, with the spiritual, socially conscious ballads of a Toots or a Bunny Wailer, while trying to answer how an island of three million ended up making some of the most influential music in the world.
Dancehall is the reggae of the 21st century – and you can find its rhythms in any Top-10 pop list in North America.
The problems – guns, violence, sex, drugs and corruption – are as real in Jamaica's Trench Town as they are in São Paulo , which gives the music tremendous reach.
"If everybody had a nice life, a business, a home, a family they wouldn't feel like life was worth nothing," says deejay Bounty Killer.
In Jamaica, musicians remain the unofficial opposition – a nation of Bob Dylans that at times have far more credibility than the average government minister.
"There is so much frivolous music out there, when the world is in so much turmoil," says Third World guitarist Stephen Coore to his musician son Shiah.
There is plenty of frivolity in dancehall as well, (as Lady Saw says, "Thank God for slackness") perhaps too much for the liking of old-school reggae stars. But there is room for both party anthem and song of protest in the new order.
Featuring 19 stars, Made In Jamaica is an ambitious undertaking, but ultimately overreaches. As Laperrousaz (who has been on this path before with the 1980 documentary Prisoners in the Street: Third World) glides from one legendary musician to the next, it becomes less an intended examination of Jamaican cultural consciousness and more of a lushly produced music video.
Which is not necessarily a bad thing since the music is simply incredible. But I would trade in some of the slickness for a sharper reality, as in Jeremy Marre's sublime 1977 doc Beats of the Heart: Roots Rock Reggae that took a grittier look at the social conditions and turmoil that helped to create the medium.
While there is some discussion of the hardier topics – poverty, abuse and the relationship of politics and gun violence – this is ultimately a celebration of the artists, so some key issues are not discussed. Elephant Man and Bounty Killer, both who are profiled extensively, aren't confronted on their controversial, homophobic lyrics and are given a free pass.
Still, the doc, which screened at the Cannes and Toronto film festivals takes a worthy look at a music born though turmoil with a vision that still resonates globally.
THE JOURNEY OF THE LION
Director: Fritz Baumann
From: Jamaica and Germany
Year: 1992 Minutes: 90
Brother Howie is a Jamaican Rastifari who dreams of the land of his ancestors: Africa. On a journey in search of his roots and his identity he travels through three continents and - with great humor and sensitivity - discovers the world...and Africa.
The Journey of the Lion (1992)
November 25, 1994
Critic's Choice/Film; A Jamaican Journeyer in Search of His African Roots
By STEPHEN HOLDEN
Published: November 25, 1994
Howard A. Trott, the subject of Fritz Baumann's film "The Journey of the Lion," is a Jamaican Rastafarian who lives an impoverished existence with his two children in a shack on the outskirts of Kingston. Disgusted with modern civilization, Brother Howie, as he is known, dreams of repatriation in Africa. Out of the blue one day, he receives a letter from the sister he hasn't seen in 30 years inviting him to visit her in London. Leaving Jamaica for the first time in his life, he embarks on a journey that takes him to England and eventually to Egypt and Ghana.
The eloquently simple film, which is to be screened twice this weekend at Cinema Village (tomorrow at 3:50 P.M. and Sunday at 9 P.M.), is among 13 movies having their American premieres as part of the Contemporary Films of the African Diaspora Festival. The festival, which opens at noon today with "Life is Rosy," a musical comedy from Zaire, is presenting 32 recent feature films from around the world.
Much of the screenplay for "The Journey of the Lion" consists of letters from the road written by Brother Howie to his children, Irey and Makeba. On his first plane trip, he is surprised by the "tinned things" that are served and by the fact that when flying you don't feel as if you are moving. In London, he is entranced by everything from frost on a windshield to the efficiency of the subway system.
It is there that he befriends a photographer, who takes him to northern Africa where he discovers that the desert can be cold and that the people are mostly Muslim. From Egypt, he sets off by himself for Ghana. Here is where he finally begins to feel at home, recognizing the roots of his Jamaican culture in the music and storytelling. In the film's touching final scene, he stands on the remains of a coastal fortress and reflects on his ancestors who were carried off as slaves.
Public libraries and K-12 DVD sale: $29.95