Roots & Revolution: Reggae on Film

Roots & Revolution: Reggae on Film

6 Episodes

A perfect storm of rhythm, bass, melody, and political and spiritual messaging, reggae was born in Jamaica in the late 1960s and early ’70s, and has since gone on to become one of the most influential, popular, and genre-exploding forms of music around the globe. The first classic reggae film, Perry Henzell’s wildly entertaining drama THE HARDER THEY COME, starring the great Jimmy Cliff as singer-outlaw Ivanhoe Martin, thrummed with hard-edged authenticity and set a template for future classics like ROCKERS and the recently rediscovered BABYLON, whose casts of real-life reggae stars and industry figures lend a sense of raw reportage to fictional narratives. Unsurprisingly, many documentarians have also turned their gaze on reggae’s key trailblazers (THE UPSETTER: THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF LEE SCRATCH PERRY, OMEGA RISING WOMEN OF RASTAFARI), amplifying the movement’s resounding cinematic legacy.

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Roots & Revolution: Reggae on Film
  • Roots & Revolution: Reggae on Film Introduction

    Episode 1

    This introduction by Criterion curatorial director Ashley Clark was recorded in 2021.

  • The Harder They Come

    Episode 2

    Directed by Perry Henzell • 1972 • Jamaica
    Starring Jimmy Cliff, Janet Bartley, Carl Bradshaw

    Reggae superstar Jimmy Cliff is Ivan, a rural Jamaican musician who journeys to the city of Kingston in search of fame and fortune. Pushed to desperate circumstances by shady record producers and corrup...

  • Blacks Britannica

    Episode 3

    Directed by David Koff • 1978 • United States

    Banned in Britain for its supposedly incendiary message, this riveting documentary offers a searing analysis of structural racism in Britain. Featuring incisive contributions from activists and everyday citizens, BLACKS BRITANNICA paints a devastatin...

  • Rockers

    Episode 4

    Directed by Theodoros Bafaloukos • 1978 • Jamaica
    Starring Leroy Wallace, Richard ‘Dirty Harry’ Hall, Monica Craig

    Taking inspiration from both BICYCLE THIEVES and the Robin Hood legend, ROCKERS is one of the definitive reggae films—an effortlessly cool, almost documentary-like immersion into Ja...

  • Babylon

    Episode 5

    Directed by Franco Rosso • 1980 • United Kingdom, Italy
    Starring Brinsley Forde, David N. Haynes, Trevor Laird

    A long-lost reggae classic reemerges. Suppressed following its Cannes premiere for fear that it would stoke racial tension, Franco Rosso’s incendiary portrait of sound-system culture in...

  • Omega Rising Women of Rastafari

    Episode 6

    Directed by D. Elmina Davis • 1988 • United Kingdom

    This groundbreaking documentary was the first film to explore and challenge myths and stereotypes about the Rastafarian movement, giving voice to the women of Rastafari, who speak for themselves about their relationship to the movement and its ...