Published Oct 30, 2008Made In Jamaica surveys todays reggae and dancehall scene, which was born on an island driven by crime and poverty. The documentary offers a wealth of concert and studio performances by musicians young and old: Toots of the Maytals, Gregory Isaacs, Bunny Wailer, Bounty Killer, Elephant Man, Lady Saw, Sly and Robbie, Tanya Stephens and Capleton, among others.
In short, the music is amazing, with footage shot onstage, in colonial mansions once owned by white plantation owners, on the ghetto streets of Kingston 14 and even on an Amsterdam stage. This is the kind of film you must play loud.
The songs celebrate the Rastafarian religion, lament ghetto life and rally against social injustice, upholding the themes that Bob Marley preached to the world some 30 years ago. Marley casts a deep shadow across this film. In a poignant moment, last surviving Wailer Bunny admits that he feels lonely without Marley or Peter Tosh but finds comfort in the fact that their music is everywhere.
The film opens on the murder of dancehall pioneer Bogle, which propels the story in different directions: the ghetto, colonialism, crime, politics, women, sex, machismo and religion. All valid topics but each one is skimmed over. The sound bites get lost in the non-stop flow of music. Thats the problem Made In Jamaica moves so quickly that it never explores a single subject in any depth.
For example, Tanya Stephens makes intriguing remarks about how as a woman she broke into the boys club of dancehall but never elaborates on how or why. Later on, the film cuts to one male singer directing male audience members to feign butt-fucking women onstage. Also, we never know what really happened to Bogle or explore the thorny relationship between the music, the ghetto and violence.
Overall, the performances and stylized production make up for the films shortcomings. As a serious look at life in Jamaica, this film misses the mark but as a celebration of Jamaican music, its essential. (Vagrant)