By Geo Ong
Two weeks ago the Brooklyn Academy of Music held a week-long film programme called Do the Reggae, screening some of Jamaica’s most acclaimed and legendary films. The series’ opening selection was the 1978 film Rockers, which I hadn’t even heard of before going in to watch it. It seemed however that I was in the minority that night. The theatre was packed with enthusiastic folks who shouted along to what were clearly the movie’s most famous lines.
You get a flavour of everything from watching Rockers. The narrative is a funky blend of Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves and a reggae-infused Robin Hood tale. The film is told completely through Jamaican Patois (with English subtitles for foreign audiences), and the locations are all real locations, providing those of us who’ve never been to the country with just a glimpse of what Jamaica really is.
The cast is comprised entirely of nonactors. In fact, the lead actor and most of the supporting cast were actual, working musicians, from Leroy ‘Horsemouth’ Wallace to Jacob Miller to Burning Spear. Their presence lends a charm and swagger to the film’s story and dialogue.
And of course, Rockers wouldn’t be anything without the music. Director Theodoros Bafaloukos utilised the musical talent around him by featuring full-length musical performance numbers, including a percussion-heavy introduction at the start of the film to set the tone for what will always be a rich and vibrant artistic experience.