Rockers
dir. Ted Bafaloukos
Plays at EMP Wed Sept 5.

Jah knows I'm the worst person in the world to review a movie like Rockers because I can't fucking stand reggae music. Yes, I recognize that there's reggae and there's reggae, which is to say there's a vast difference between the greats (Toots and the Maytals, Desmond Dekker, Burning Spear, the Wailers, et al.) and the garbage I associate with the white stoners I went to prep school with or the horror of KEXP on weekends. And yes, I know that there's a rich and righteous political history associated with the music in Jamaica, where it constituted a battle hymn for the common people. Still, as music, reggae seems stultifyingly samey; there must be more than one reggae song in the world, but that's not what my ears tell me. Rather, I hear one long, uninterrupted, ganja-and-dreadlock-advocating, righteousness dispensing, dun-dun-DEE-DEE, dun-DEE-DEE Jah Rastafari narrative. And it bores me senseless every time I hear it, so I go out of my way not to.

That's why I was so surprised to enjoy Rockers as much as I did. The first film in EMP's fall film series (co-curated by the Northwest Film Forum) "Island Revolution: Jamaican Music on Film" is a feature-length narrative about reggae culture, starring Leroy "Horsemouth" Brown (drummer for Burning Spear) as himself, basically.

The story is simple and classical: Leroy spends the first half hour borrowing money to buy a motorcycle, the second half hour using the motorcycle until it gets stolen, and the third half hour plotting his revenge against the big money men who stole it. Along the way, Leroy plays some music, talks in indecipherable dialect, smokes pounds of ganja, and visits the pressing plants, tiny stores, and courier distribution of the local independent music community--by far the most fascinating thing in the film.

Interminably long at 90 minutes, and marred somewhat by an energetic amateurism, Rockers is nonetheless interesting, adding a human context (and an incredibly charismatic protagonist) to my deplorably ignorant understanding of Jamaican culture. I even liked some of the songs.

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