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THE FIRST RASTA (Le premier rasta)
"The movement defies definition and thus invites it. And yeah, the music is pretty good." -New York Times
"This beautifully paced doc demonstrates that the Rastafari movement is far from irrelevant" -TimeOut Chicago
By popularizing reggae internationally, Bob Marley became the global ambassador for Rastafarians, a Jamaican spiritual movement formed from the union of black nationalism and messianic Christianity. Yet the wide circulation of Rasta iconography — not to mention ceremonial clouds of ganja smoke — has stripped it of its original context and political content.
The First Rasta tells the life of Rastafarianism's founder, Leonard Percival Howell, from precocious anti-colonialist to world traveler and social visionary. In the early 20th century, Howell set sail around the world and during his journey, sampled ideologies from anarchism to bolshevism as well as from Marcus Garvey to psychoanalysis. In 1939, he returned to Jamaica enlightened and "Gong" Howell set up the Pinnacle, the first Rastafarian community.
Utilizing archival footage, police reports, traditional voiceover narration, and interviews with Howell's followers, acquaintances, and relatives, director Hélène Lee, who has also written a book about the subject matter, goes beyond the clichés associated with Rasta, and attempts to correct this cultural amnesia. (The New York Times/Slant Magazine)
Directed by Hélène Lee and Christophe Farnarier, France/Mauritius, 2011, 90 mins.