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Music Video Distributors presents
Heartland Reggae (1983)

"Doctors smoke it. Nurses smoke it. Judges smoke it. Even my lawyer, too. So you've got to legalize it."
- Peter Tosh

Review By: Brian Calhoun   
Published: April 26, 2002

Stars: Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Jacob Miller, Junior Tucker
Other Stars: Judy Mowatt, Dennis Brown, Lloyd Parkes
Director: Jim Lewis

Manufacturer: L & M
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (some drug content)
Run Time: 01h:26m:53s
Release Date: March 20, 2001
UPC: 784178853827
Genre: music

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B+B+D+ D-

DVD Review

When people think of reggae music, they typically think of the dance-like quality of staccato guitars and syncopated rhythm sections. What many people do not realize is that behind the heartfelt lyrics of peace and love is a language of the Jamaican people. Jamaican reggae began as an outspoken cry against the tyranny and oppression that had plagued their country. In addition to the party atmosphere, reggae promotes a sincere message of redemption and unity.

Documentary filmmaker Jim Lewis has captured this message admirably in Heartland Reggae by shooting concert footage in Jamaica for almost a year. Most impressive is his candid filming of the important One Love Peace Concert, held in the spring of 1978. Featuring strong reggae artists such as Peter Tosh, Bob Marley, and Jacob Miller, the concert exudes a tremendous amount of energy. Lewis has a keen ability to show the excitement from the musicians' perspective, allowing the viewer a better understanding of the passion that drives their performances. He does not forget to encompass the audience as well, as there are many shots of islanders as well as tourists dancing to these expressive melodies.

A highlight performance is by Peter Tosh, whose funky vibe and sleek grooves transcend the parameters of conventional reggae. Bob Marley and the Wailers also put on a terrific show, with a repertoire including the emotional War and a blistering rendition of Jamming that marks a perfect end to the film. Another impressive performance is by Judy Mowatt, who offers a female outlook to a concert predominately featuring male performers.

Both a strength and weakness of Heartland Reggae is that it does not focus entirely on the musical events. Interspersed within the concert pieces are brief lessons on the Jamaican people and their country. Learning their history and the origins of reggae gives the audience better insight as to the emotional nature of the music. However, the running narration and interview clips often abruptly cut off the concert footage. This is particularly disturbing when a song reaches the height of its groove, only to be prematurely interrupted.

It is quite depressing as of late to hear local radio stations saturating the airwaves with somber tones fueled by even more depressing lyrics. Watching Heartland Reggae was like a cathartic nostalgia that helped transport my soul into a place of serenity and peace. While the film is nowhere near the level of the phenomenal Gimme Shelter or Woodstock, it is a well-preserved piece of history in addition to a wonderful concert film.

Song List:

Peace Treaty - Jacob Miller
Whip Them Jah - Dennis Brown
African - Peter Tosh
I am Natty - Jacob Miller
400 years - Peter Tosh
Natty Don't Fear - U-Roy
Trenchtown Rock - Bob Marley and the Wailers
Natty Dread - Bob Marley and the Wailers
War - Bob Marley and the Wailers
Jah Live - Bob Marley and the Wailers
Jamming - Bob Marley and the Wailers
Black Woman - Judy Mowatt with the Light of Love
Enjoy Yourself - Junior Tucker
Soul Rebel - U-Roy
Get Up Stand Up - Peter Tosh
Uptown Top Rankin - Althea and Donna
Legalize It - Peter Tosh
Tired Fe Lick Week - Jacob Miller

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The 1.33:1 image exhibits an appropriately raw characteristic, closely resembling the original 16mm print. Black level has a slight tinge around the edges, and grain and film artifacts are excessive; however, these deficiencies actually add to the nostalgia trip. This picture is light years away from reference quality, though it admirably preserves these historic events.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: I was not expecting a crystal clear mix, but I was also not prepared for the mono soundtrack to sound so unpleasant. The entire track is cursed with excessive distortion, particularly present in the vocals and bass guitar. Crash cymbals sound tinny and indistinct as if they were recorded underwater. The kick drum is audible, yet cannot be felt, as all kick drums should. Additionally, there is an irritating buzz present during quiet passages that sounds as if there is a loose wire within my audio system (there is not). This soundtrack sounds like nothing more than a fair quality bootleg.

Audio Transfer Grade: D+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 8 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Production Credits
Extras Review: Heartland Reggae is void of any extras with the exception of DVD production credits. There are no subtitles, so do not expect to sing along if the lyrics are not already familiar to you. The lack of special features is a major disappointment considering the abundance of reggae-related material that could have been included.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

While not exactly a breakthrough for DVD technology, Heartland Reggae is an enjoyable concert experience that has been nicely restored. Fans of film and music alike should find this a welcome addition to both their music and movie collections.


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