Land of Look Behind | Chicago Reader

Land of Look Behind

Alan Greenberg's 1982 documentary—his first and only released film—has been praised by Werner Herzog and Jim Jarmusch, the latter calling it “an organic portrait of the very soul of Jamaica, and the earthy, pervasive substrata of Rastafarianism.” Greenberg, who lived in Jamaica on and off for 26 years, decided to document the funeral of Bob Marley but then went on to explore the culture of the Jamaican countryside, interweaving preachers, performers (reggae star Gregory Isaacs), writers (revolutionary poet Mutabaruka), and ordinary folk (a man who presents the various toads living in his region). Aided by the acutely responsive handheld camera of Herzog cinematographer Jörg Schmidt-Reitwein, the film links religion to singing and street dancing, its constantly shifting focus mirroring the people?s diverse interests and restless energy. Rastafarianism fascinates here through its wildly associative connections, its non-Western logic, and its true believers: one evangelist shopkeeper who has cut a few records remarks, “By singing . . . I can feel the universe and inspire people.” The print being shown, a 35-millimeter blowup from a 16-millimeter original, is slightly faded, and the Jamaican patois is subtitled when necessary. 88 min.

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