Reggae superstar Toots blows his horn.
MADE IN JAMAICA (Jérôme Laperrousaz). 120 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (October 31). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NN
Offering feeble profiles of various reggae and dancehall artists, the anemic Made In Jamaica barely scratches the surface of a musical genre that's given the world cutting social expression and rousing club anthems.
At its best, the documentary has us jamming to the riddims of Bounty Killer and Vybz Kartel while barely clothed ebony hotties lend visual bounce to the festivities. Sometimes the best thing you can do with such imposing artists is lock the camera in place and let them hold the show. At these moments the film becomes a music video - and a bumping one at that.
The artists speak to Jamaica's history, the music's ghetto foundations, Bob Marley's inspiration and daily life in Trenchtown. But the film is structureless and packs in too many musicians who have very little to say beyond their music.
Misogyny is visible but barely discussed, and nothing is said about homophobia in a genre that made "battyman" and "chi chi man" internationally recognized insults. Beenie Man is missing, and elite female artists like Lady Saw and Tanya Stephens are reduced to mere footnotes.
It may be that reggae isn't made for documentary, or maybe documentary isn't ready to hold a lighter up to reggae. I prefer to think it's the latter.