Stories from Jamaica's music underground
IDFA SYNOPSIS Thinking of Jamaica usually conjures up an image of peace-loving Rastafarians with thick dreadlocks surrounded by even thicker clouds of hash smoke who play reggae tunes and sing the praises of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie. Luciano Blotta's self-conscious documentary RiseUp provides ample support of that cliché, but he simultaneously shows that behind the clever export product that reggae has become, a world of poverty and underdevelopment is lurking. In the minds of many young Jamaicans, the only way out is a career in music, but the competition is overwhelming, so everyone tries to display their talent wherever and whenever they can. Blotta follows three young people who are trying to rise up from the underground: there's the shy Kemoy, who sings beautiful R&B-like songs; the white Ice, whose biggest dream is to perform at the famous Reggae Sumfest; and the charismatic Turbulence, who almost ended up living a life of crime before he thought better of it. These days, Turbulence's goal is to "Eat good food, have good life, make music." Blotta interweaves the three storylines with lots of music (watch out for the guy with the one-stringed guitar), atmospheric shots of the city and country, and the commentary, which is spoken in juicy Jamaican English by a trio of experts from the music world. Sly and Robbie stop by, as well as the legendary Lee Perry, to say that Kemoy has a lot of talent. But apparently talent alone isn't enough. Not by a long shot. PRODUCER'S SYNOPSIS RiseUp is a journey into the heart of Jamaica - the island that gave birth to the worldwide cultural phenomenon of Reggae. In a society where talent abounds and opportunity is scarce, three distinct and courageous artists fight to rise up from obscurity and write themselves into the pages of history. With music and appearances by legends Lee "Scratch" Perry, Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, and a slew of soon-to-be superstars, RiseUp follows artists in the dangerous streets, back alleys and crowded dancehalls of Kingston and the countryside. These artists demonstrate the raw power of hope and courage in a land which is largely unseen, but certainly not unsung. Welcome to the Jamaican underground music scene.