Land Of Look Behind
Land Of Look Behind is an overlooked poetic document by Alan Greenberg from 1982. Filmed in Jamaica in May and June of 1981, Greenberg's initial intention, to my knowledge, was purely to capture Bob Marley's funeral, and the impact of his death on the island's culture. But somehow, like an unusual tropical blossom, the film unfolds into something more striking and beautiful than maybe even Greenberg himself expected. It becomes an organic portrait of the very soul of Jamaica, and the earthy, pervasive sub-strata of Rastafarianism.
Formally the film flows easily, seemingly growing from the climate, the music, the speech patterns, and the gentle landscape of the island itself. Footage of Markley's coffin being driven in the back of a pickup along the dusty roadways lined with throngs of devastated admirers does serve as a visual centerpiece. But the heart of the film inhabits its details. For me, specific images seem to recur in my memory (I've seen the film several times): the way that, in the opening sequence, a backwoods countryman carefully locates and presents a small indigenous tree toad to the camera; a shot of Gregory Isaacs from behind as he exits a ground floor office and walks into Kingston's hard sunlight; and the haunting undulating to Marley's voice and rhythms floating from a tape player, as though the music contains the secret code to a deep spiritual mystery. And, in fact, it does.
In the end, Land Of Look Behind, in its casual, organic way taps into the true spirit of the gifts of Jamaican culture, both musical and spiritual, to somehow become a near-perfect portrait f the strength and pride of its people. In my opinion, Alan Greenberg's film rounds out a trilogy of great movies from Jamaica which also includes The Harder The Come and Rockers. I'm happy to recommend it as a film that has not yet received the attention it deserves.