Babylon

Franco Rosso’s film premiered at the 1980 Cannes Film Festival without the benefit of subtitles to clarify the Jamaican Creole dialect called patois, from the 17th century when West African slaves were exposed to English language vernacular. As an example of racist reaction to Jamaican transplants and their passion for reggae, National Front graffiti abounds in this movie which could easily be seen as I Vitelloni with a Rastafarian reverberation! It never received a US theatrical release, and due to its police violence and the unresolved police killing herein, the British gave the movie an X rating to guarantee a limited release so no one would see it! Centered on the character Blue (Brinsley Forde, who was in the band Aswad), who fronts a reggae sound system as head DJ, as music and militancy respond to the political climate, he and his friends spend rudderless days spliffing around the arcades on the precipice of petty theft. It pulls no punches with its overt racist content but the smoky tension builds scene by scene.

[NR]