Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Yard! Dub and Reggae on Film
Take a filmic and musical journey through the heart and soul of sunny Jamaica this summer when the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) presents an incredible selection of new and classic films exploring dub and reggae on film.
ACMI will treat Melbourne to a smorgasbord of rhythm and grooves with Yard! Dub and Reggae on Film. From the Australian premiere of Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae (2009) to the Franco Rosso underground classic Babylon (1980), the entire program is drenched with the smooth and soulful sounds of Lee Scratch Perry, Burning Spear, Duke Vin, Hopeton Lewis and Peter Tosh.
"Politics and music are a big part of our film programs overall, so when opportunities arise for us to explore both at one time it is difficult to resist," says ACMI Head of Film Programs Richard Sowada. "The enormous global impact of Reggae, the roots of social justice and struggle in the sound, the characters that inhabit it, the powerful aesthetic and the deep experimentation is quite inspiring - and the music...well it just soars."
Opening the season is the Australian premiere of Silverdocs award winner Rise Up (2009) which goes beyond Bob Marley to reveal the current Jamaican underground music scene - where talent abounds and opportunity is scarce. The film follows three distinct artists as they fight to rise above the rest and their journey through the dangerous streets and crowded dance halls of Kingston and the countryside, which is largely unseen but certainly not unsung. Rise Up screens with the music video Black Culture from Secret Masters, featuring Tippa Irie.
Ethan Higbee and Adam Bhala Lough's The Upsetter (2008) enters the world of the legendary Lee Scratch Perry, the man who elevated Bob Marley to superstardom, invented reggae and dub, then at the height of his success had a complete ganja-fuelled professional and personal meltdown, with false rumours of his death running rife. The film is made up of archival footage and numerous eccentric and utterly compelling interviews with Perry himself allowing him to tell his own story, arguably one of the most important of 20th century music.
In the style of Wim Wender's Buena Vista Social Club (1999), Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae reunites the artists behind the golden age of Jamaican music, known as rocksteady, to record an album of its hits, and ultimately perform it. The era that started with optimism with Jamaica's 1962 independence from Britain, later turned violent as unemployment spawned the 'rude-boy' gangs. The Rastafarian movement fueled by Ethopian emperor Haile Selassie's visit also came to the foreground. All of this impacted on the thriving music scene that provided the soundtrack. Hopeton Lewis, Stranger Cole, Dawn Penn and Marcia Griffiths are just some of the artists that touch hearts worldwide with stirring shuffles like 'The Tide is High' and 'Rivers of Babylon' - huge hits when covered by Blondie and Boney M respectively.
Described by NME as a must-see film, Franco Rosso's incendiary drama Babylon is about black Britain circa 1980. It stars Aswad lead singer Brinsley Forde as Blue, the MC who, after being sacked by his racist boss, two-timed by his woman and beaten up by plains clothes coppers, finally loses it and stabs a likely white offender with a screwdriver. Strong parralels can be drawn between Franc Rodham's Quadrophenia (1979), which shares a writer in Martin Stellman and offers a similar no-frill's look at male-dominated youth culture where hedonism collides with real life issues and erupts in violence. Babylon screens with Gus Berger's documentary Duke Vin and the Birth of Ska (2008). It tells the story of how two stowaways from Kingston - Vin and Count Suckle - changed the face of British popular music against the odds of racism and discrimination. Ska is a force that can still be heard in British pop music today, in the likes of Mark Ronson, Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse.
Award-winning director Jerome Laperrousaz's colourful documentary Made in Jamaica (2008) gives Jamaican artists of all ages from the Kingston ghetto the opportunity to speak out. The film blends concerts, verbal battles between dancehall artists, body eloquence, exacerbation of sexuality and gang warfare, murder, excessive partying all together to create a portrait of a country through its musical identities. It includes the outrageous and striking Lady Saw, one of the few female music stars in Jamaica.
Theodrore Bafalouko's charismatic meditation on Rastafarian culture Rockers (1978) stars legendary Jamaican drummer Leroy 'Horsemouth' Wallace, who has played for every reggae artist known to humankind, as well as a host of other Trench Town stars including Gregory Isaacs, Robbie Shakespeare and the late Jacob Miller. Rockers is a feast for the eyes and ears alike with its long, observational takes and authentic backdrop supplied by the on-location shooting - all complimented by a soundtrack of greats including Peter Tosh, Burning Spear, Big Youth and more - creating a rich portrait of reggae culture at its peak.
Yard! Dub and Reggae on Film is a particularly exciting season for ACMI with the accompanying Live Gigs and DJs music performances sitting aside the film program - all performances are either free to the public or free with a ticket to one of the season's film sessions. Melbourne's own reggae soundsystem Jesse I and Chantdown Sound open the season on Friday 22 January with a pre-screening performance at 6.15pm at the ACMI Lounge - followed post-film at 9pm with a performance from Mista Savona, one of Australia's leading exponents of roots reggae, dancehall and heavyweight dub music, in The Cube. Other artists to play include local favourites Sista Itations, Secret Masters and Heartical HiFi.
Yard! Dub and Reggae on Film runs from Friday 22 January - Sunday 31 January at ACMI. For more information on the season click here.
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