Alan Greenberg – Land of Look Behind (1982)

Synopsis:
In this documentary on the Rastafarians in Jamaica (homeland of the Rastafari par excellence — the late Bob Marley), director Alan Greenberg interviews some Jamaicans whose conversations suggest that the smoking of ganja, the worship of Haile Selassie (the former Ethiopian emperor) as a god, and the goal of Jamaican self-realization is their own kind of unified field theory. A young, poverty-stricken teenager listens to the reggae music on his radio as though it will magically lead him to a better future, and a pineapple cutter living in the “baddest” area of the island dreams of fomenting tourism in his exotic surroundings. The May, 1981 funeral of Marley himself brought Christian and Rastafarian beliefs together in tribute to the island’s hero, providing one of the most poignant vignettes in the Land of Look Behind.

Review by Jim Jarmusch
Land of Look Behind is an overlooked poetic document by Alan Greenberg from 1982. Filmed in Jamaica in May and June of 1981, Greenberg’s initial intention. to my knowledge was purely to capture Bob Marley’s funeral, and the impact of his death on the island’s culture. But somehow, like an unusual tropical blossom, the film unfolds into something morestriking and beautiful than maybe even Greenberg himself expected. It becomes an organic portrait of the very soul of Jamaica, and the earthy, pervaisive sub-strata or Rastafarianism.

Formally the film flows easily, seemingly growing from the climate, the music, the speech patterns, and the gentle landscape of the island itself. Footage of Marley’s coffin being driven in the back of a pickup along the dusty roadways lined with throngs of devastated admirers does serve as a visual centerpiece. But the heart of the film inhabits its details. For me, a specific images seem to recur in my memory (I’ve seen the film several times): the waythat, in the opening sequence, a backwoods countryman carefully locates and presents a small indegenous tree toad to the camera; a shot of Gregory Isaacs from behind as he exists a ground floor office and walks into Kingston’s hard sunlight; and the haunting closingsequence involving a young Rasta in the hills undulating to Marley’s voice and rythyms floating from a tape player, as though the music contains the secret code to a deep spiritual mystery. And, in fact, it does.

In the end, Land of look Behind, in its casual, organic way taps into the true spiritof the gifts of Jamaican culture, both musical and spiritual, to somehow become a near-perfect portrait of the strength and pride of it’s people. In my opinion, Alan Greenberg’s film rounds out a trilogy og great movies from Jamaica which also includes The Harder They Come and Rockers. I’m happy to recommend it as a film that has not yet recieved the attention it deserves. – Jim Jarmusch

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Language:English + Commentary
Subtitles:English

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