Friday, November 06, 2009

1980 Reggae Movie ‘Rockers’ Still Has Cult Following

Reggae and a 30-year-old movie about its Jamaican culture has become popular with a new generation.

Inner Circle includes founding members Ian and Roger Lewis, who both appeared in the 1978 film “Rockers.”

“We didn’t know the reggae sounds was so popular there now, but the movie has become like an underground cult movie in Asia,” Ian Lewis told Lake Tahoe Action after arriving in the United States from the Far East last week. “Remember that ‘Rocky Horror (Picture) Show?’ It became like a cult. ‘Rockers’ movie is like that now in Vietnam and Singapore because younger kids, they like that culture.”

The movie, filmed in six weeks in 1977 at the Kingston ghetto Trenchtown and two weeks in Ocho Rios, is an authentic representation of the Jamaican culture during that era because all the characters portrayed themselves. The loosely written and improvised storyline is a reggae version of Robin Hood.

“When we made that movie everybody was laughing because nobody was no actor,” Lewis said. “It offered up our true vibe because everybody was playing ourselves. They wasn’t trying to be no actor. So that’s the best kind of acting, just be yourself.”

Zephyr Cove real-estate agent Richard Bolen was a “post-production producer” for “Rockers.” Bolen negotiated performance rights, located 26 master recordings and raised $350,000 to finish putting the film together. He also made all the domestic and international film and record distribution deals.

“We knew what we had was good,” Bolen said. “We didn’t know we were catching the roots reggae culture at its epitome.”

While there was extreme poverty, it was also seminal period for Jamaica, which influenced cultures throughout the world.

“It was tantamount to the ’60s generation,” Bolen said. “They thought they were changing the world for a better way.”

Just a few years after “Rockers” was filmed some of reggae’s pioneers were gone. Inner Circle’s Jacob Miller was killed in a 1980 car accident, Bob Marley died of cancer in 1981 and Peter Tosh was murdered in 1987.

“Bob Marley was a living god with them,” Bolen said. “He was significant here but so much more palpable in the Caribbean and Africa and Europe. He was a genuine world spokesman of human spirit and hope, and he knew it.”

Marley did not appear in “Rockers,” but his peers did. And while Bolen was in Jamaica dealing with people who claimed to be in the movie and demanded to be paid, Peter Tosh was on tour with the Rolling Stones, often appearing onstage with a “Rockers” T-shirt.

Although Bolen was surrounded by desperate and dirt-poor Kingston residents during a three-year period, he had two guides and never felt he was in danger.
“They were guides to how the ghetto worked,” Bolen said. “They did protect me but it was more of a vibratory thing. The general consensus was we were there doing Jah works.”

Lewis understands why a new generation appreciates “Rockers.”

“They see it’s real,” he said. “It’s natural. Some of the older folks might see the weed smoking and they’re not used to that. But what they see is a real culture, and the kids like that.

“It made me happy to see something that was done 20, 30 years ago has come full circle to fruition, that people appreciate it for what it is.”
- By Tim Parsons, Lake Tahoe Action

Rockers’ (1980)
Writer-director: Ted Bafaloukos
Producer: Patrick Hulsey
Cast: (Each member portrays himself) Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace, Richard “Dirty Harry” Hall, Gregory “Jah Tooth” Isaacs, Jacob “Jakes” Miller, Robbie “Robbie” Shakespeare, Frank “Kiddus I” Dowding, Winston “Burning Spear” Rodney, Manley “Big Youth” Buchanan, Lester “Dillinger” Bullocks
Plot: Horsemouth is a drummer who lives in a Kingston ghetto. He sells and delivers records from his motorcycle, which is stolen by gangsters. The movie begins as a loose interpretation of Vittorio de Sica’s “The Bicycle Thief” and turns into a reggae interpretation of the story of Robin Hood.

"Rockers" soundtrack: (Side one)
1. “We ‘A’ Rockers,” Inner Circle
2. “Money Worries,” the Maytones
3. “Police and Thieves,” Junior Murvin
4. “Books of Rules,” The Heptones
5. “Stepping Razor,” Peter Tosh
6. “Tenement Yard,” Jacob Miller (Inner Circle)
7. “Fade Away,” Junior Byles
(Side two)1. “Rockers,” Bunny Wailer
2. “Slave Master,” Gregory Isaacs
3. “Man in the Street,” Rockers All Stars
4. “Graduation in Zion,” Kiddus I
5. “Jah No Dead,” Burning Spear (Winston Rodney)
6. “Satta Massagana,” Third World
7. “Natty Take Over,” Justin Hines & the Dominoes