Friday September 15, 1995
"The Reggae Movie" aims to present the full reggae spectrum today, from roots icon Burning Spear to deejay Buju Banton to Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers.
Filmed at major festivals in Jamaica, Japan, Australia and the United States, its straight concert footage format and absence of any analysis leave a lot of questions unanswered.
Moviegoers unfamiliar with reggae will probably spend a lot of time afterward playing 20 questions. For some reason, the names of the performers aren't burned in while they're onscreen, leaving identification to the stage announcers and the theater audience at the mercy of Jamaican patois and roars from the concert crowd.
Who's to know Wayne Wonder was the singer and Buju Banton the deejay during their song together? Who was that group after Shinehead? Of course, if you don't know Shinehead, who was that guy after Steel Pulse? Why do you have to wait until the closing credits to discover it was Carlene Davis who sings the riveting "Cry Tough"?
Director Randy Rovins keeps the camera focused so much on the onstage performance that no sense of connection between artist and audience develops. There's no clear musical thread linking the performances--the musicians seem thrown onstage in random order to get their five minutes of screen time.
But the most damaging problem for "The Reggae Movie" is simply a lack of memorable music. Sounding like a Jamaican Teddy Pendergrass, Beres Hammond sings "Putting Up Resistance," a sufferers' anthem that belongs among reggae's all-time greatest songs, with a passion and conviction most of the performers lack.
"The Reggae Movie" does reach a climax, thanks to the wildly enthusiastic Tokyo audience at the 1994 Japansplash concert. Rovins finally catches the interaction between performer and an excited crowd. Sure, singer Maxi Priest probably works the crowd on his hit "Close to You" at every show--but it's hard to imagine he didn't put a little bit extra into the routine that night because that audience deserved it.
And watch out for Apache Indian. The charismatic deejay looked like a coiled spring and his eyes burned with an emotional intensity like no other performer save Hammond--and this was on the lightweight novelty tune "Boomshackalak," made even more of a novelty by his young son taking a couple of verses. Apart from Apache Indian and Hammond, "The Reggae Movie" sadly isn't particularly memorable.
The Reggae Movie, 1995. PG-13, for some language. A Trimedia production, released by United Artists Theaters. Director Randy Rovins. Producers Randy Rovins, Ricardo Chin. Music Supervisor Stephen Stewart. 2 hour, 15 minutes.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times