Thursday, February 26, 2009

New Doc: Made In Jamaica

Columbia Spectator preview:

Jamaican Music More than Marley in Movie
by Jacklyn Katz

Made in Jamaica is the kind of film that will make you want to dance and sway to the music.

A fusion of documentary and music video, the film will play Thursday night as part of the Best of the African Diaspora Film Festival. Beyond the soulful reggae music of Bob Marley, this film aims to highlight the struggles and the triumphs of Jamaica’s most notorious artists.

Director Jérôme Laperrousaz uses news footage, interviews, and performances to discuss the evolution of music and the music industry in Jamaica. As Laperrousaz sees it, the explosion of music in this country veils its citizens’ pain, heartache, and desire to succeed and survive. The film begins with the death of Bogle (Gerald Levy), a Jamaican dancehall performer. The violence and the strife surrounding these artists have served as inspiration for their emotional and explicit music as the film moves through its performers.

Third World, Gregory Isaacs, Lady Saw, Elephant Man, and Bounty Killer are just a few of the many artists included in this film who exemplify the diverse musical styles cultivated in Jamaica. For the most part, Laperrousaz is able to showcase each individual’s talents while demonstrating that each singer or musician is a part of a collective whole. But with the introduction of dancehall music, it is apparent that younger artists are using the foundations of reggae music to make their own way in the music world—the music is faster, louder, and at times raunchier than traditional reggae.

Laperrousaz introduces each artist in the film with a performance that is either from a concert or staged for the documentary. These staged performances add a unique dimension—they have an almost music-video quality—to sections of the film. But there are times when the filming of these mini music videos slows down the pace of the film—whether this is intentional or not is not always clear.

The construction of the film aside, it is incredible how much information is incorporated into this film. The film is not only a documentary about music and the history and transformation of reggae music, but also about the Jamaican people—their past, present, and future. Made in Jamaica is a raw and uncensored exploration of the Jamaican music scene. For those who aren’t familiar with reggae or dancehall music, the film certainly provides a crash course.

Vybz Kartel (music and interview):