Friday, March 2, 2012

A Slice of Jamaican Reggae Utopia

Tonight, at the 2012 Salem Film Festival in Salem, Massachusetts, something truly unique is happening. For the first time in the event's history, a documentary made by a local Salem filmmaker is being presented. What makes it even better is that this is also the U.S. premiere of Reggae in the Ruff.

The movie focuses on a group of elders who have been quietly living a utopian Jamaican lifestyle for more than three decades in the Blue Mountains hills of NonsuchPortland. The group lives organically off the land and also jams together as Johnnie Walker and the Disappointers.


The music this one-of-a-kind reggae group writes and performs is as original as the setting from whence it comes. Per the film's official website:

Their songs, based on daily events in their community, are deceptively simple lessons for the world at large. Simple things reveal larger truths. While the international economic turmoil collapses the walls of Babylon with lies and greed, the Disappointers live simply and spiritually in their Jamaican Zion. Free and self-sufficient. Their music reflects this and is infused with a natural spirit.

This is the first independent film for Irish born writer-director Don McConnell, who has extensive experience making non-fiction for PBS, the Discovery Channel and National Geographic. At one point earlier on, he pitched a Rasta culture doc to these sorts of outlets, to no avail. Years later, McConnell, a frequent visitor to Jamaica over the past 20 years, encountered Walker and decided to go the DIY route.

Another great thing about the film involves the soundtrack. When the band went into the studio in 2010 to record a pair of songs for the documentary, the sessions quickly grew into a full-length album, which is now also being sold.

[Reggae in the Ruff]

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