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East End Film Festival: Lee Scratch Perry’s Vision Of Paradise

July 5, 2015

FestivalsFilm + EntertainmentReview | by Francesco Cerniglia


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Genius. Visionary. Legend. These words are often banded about and overused to the point of meaninglessness. This very entertaining documentary, which had its world premiere yesterday at the East End Film Festival, shines some much deserved light onto a unique and radical talent.

Lee Scratch Perry’s influence on modern music cannot be overstated. He was one of the early pioneers of Reggae, building his mythical Black Ark studio with basic equipment to create a sound equally as important as the ones created by Sun Studios in Memphis in the 50s or Abbey Road in the 60s. He worked with Bob Marley at a pivotal point in his career, setting him off on the path to international superstardom.

Along with peers like sound engineer King Tubby, he created dub in the late 60s, one of the earliest forms of electronic music where producers would use samples and existing recordings to create new music. Dub went on to influence everything from hip hop, post-punk and disco all the way through to trance, dance, jungle, drum and bass, dubstep and most recently, EDM.

This globetrotting documentary is a treat filmed over 15 years and spans locations as vast as Jamaica, Sweden, London and even Ethiopia. Littered throughout with Ethiopian art inspired animation, it is part profile, part biography and part manifesto. The most interesting side of the film is the insight it provides into Perry’s radical thoughts and ways of alternative thinking.

This is done through candid and enlightening conversations as well as exploring the history and places that shaped his thinking – from discussions around Rastafarai beliefs and even a visit to Ethiopia (including the last resting place of the Ark Of The Covenant) to Skull Cave in Jamaica and the rock, called the King’s Stone, Perry’s spaceship which took him to Kingston.

There is the biographical, from a visit to the literal roots of his childhood home (and a painful exchange with his 95 year old ailing mother) to the ruins of the original Black Ark studio. We also get to see his creative process at work, making music with legendary ambient house group, the Orb or an amazing session of him working with artist Peter Harris on paintings. There is also lots of footage from various live shows.

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He is an eccentric to say the least and anyone who wants to be creative should watch this documentary with an open heart.

Lee Scratch Perry is a true artist; it is rare to get such an insight into a visionary creative mind. He is authentic and passionate, taking his art and his work seriously in a way that should challenge others to do the same.

Most of the best moments come just from videos of Perry talking and teaching, all you have to do is follow his thought and see the sense in it.

Lee Scratch Perry’s Vision Of Paradise is a brilliant documentary about a great subject who remains only partly seen. He is still an enigma but then, he is larger than life.

The East End Film Festival runs until July 12th

You can consult the full programme and buy tickets on the festival’s official website

Hamza Mohsin