By RON FANFAIR
Bob Marley music’s still has universal appeal even though he passed away 28 years ago.
Luciano Blotta was just five years old at the time of Marley’s death in 1981, but he grew up embracing Marley’s music in his native Argentina. At the University of Miami, Blotta met and became close friends with Jamaican, Mark Hart, who invited him to visit Marley’s homeland.
Blotta, a cinematographer, accepted Hart’s invitation to visit the Caribbean country in 2003. It was on a late night outing to an underground sound system clash featuring Ninja Man in Montego Bay, that he saw first-hand the environment from which some of Jamaica’s best musical talent has emerged.
“I always take my camera equipment with me wherever I go,” said Blotta. “It was my first time seeing Ninja Man, who I had heard so much of, so I started filming right away. Of course, he was not the only one performing and I started to realize the vast amount of talent that was in this desolate place.”
With the permission of three young artists who stood out – and who Blotta had to convince that the footage he shot was going to benefit them – the filmmaker followed the trio over a four-year period, capturing the raw ambition of each performer with an intimate and unique camera style that gave them their first taste of fame as well as a vehicle to turn their dreams into reality.
Rise Up, which made its Canadian debut to packed audiences and rave reviews at the recent Hot Docs Film Festival in Toronto, delves into Jamaica’s underground music community and highlights the struggles, dreams and aspirations of three talented artists vying for their shot at fame and success.
“This is about an epic journey into Jamaica’s music underground where every singer is trying to be recognized,” said Blotta. “You have to realize that these young people see this as their only hope to get out of the ghetto and provide a decent life for themselves and their family. As you can imagine, the competition is fierce for these individuals who see music as their ticket to stardom and wealth.
The poetic film chronicles the improbable journey where life, art and dreams collide, and expresses the perennial Jamaican struggle through the lens and microphone of a very talented filmmaker.
Inspired by the graffiti-covered walls of Kingston, the exotic Clarendon countryside, Montego Bay’s pristine beaches and remote dancehall parties, Rise Up captures the stark poverty, inequality and violence which is a reality for a talented and proud people.
“This is not a documentary that will get you down even though it was filmed in an environment that, at times, could be depressing,” Blotta said. “Rise Up has these elements, but this is a very uplifting film because it has transformed lives and it shows the enormous talent that Jamaica has.”
The film features Turbulence, a charismatic lyrical master; Ice, who is the privileged songwriter from uptown Jamaica and Kemoy, a shy and angelic songstress from rural Jamaica.