Jam Down Emmanuel Bonn

Jam Down Emmanuel Bonn
Jam Down, which was shot in 1980, but only released in France, bills itself as "a musical journey into the heart of Jamaica's 1980 roots reggae music scene." It features Toots and the Maytals and Cedric Myton and the Congos. It should be viewed in context with two other reggae films made around this time, both by non-Jamaicans: Land of Look Behind and Rockers. Each tries to visually describe the desolation of the ghetto from which reggae emerged while providing an intimate showcase of the reggae movement. They're marked by low-tech, amateurish filmmaking and meandering scope, but are sustained by a passionate love of Jamaican reggae and rare musical footage. These films are all tremendously loved and appreciated by hardcore '70s reggae fans, but offer little of value to anyone else. Jamdown's best moments are live footage of the musicians in concert, in studio and in candid performances. Toots playing acoustic in the backseat of a car while running through a few of his hits, demonstrating different styles of reggae guitar, is priceless footage even though the sound quality is often poor. The Congos laying down "Food for the Rainy Days" in the studio or "Row Fisherman Row" on a deserted beach are boons for fans. However, these scenes are tied together with a poorly edited clutch of drive-by shots from cars and trains, bauxite mining, snippets of rural life, interviews with citizens on the street that add little to the film, seemingly pointless clips of barrooms as far away as Soweto and lots and lots of nothing in particular. Jamdown could stand a militant edit: chop it down to half-an-hour of the musical highlights and upload it to YouTube. (MVD Visual)