Obama, Bob Marley, and “The Land of Look Behind”

It goes without saying that I enjoyed a hipper-than-thou chortle at the thought of Obama roaming the halls of the Bob Marley Museum yesterday, and my cackle surely turned to a snort at the dude’s claim of having “all the albums”. The thought of the leader of the free world back in college, rollin’ a doob (STRICTLY CONJECTURE here, folks) and bobbing his head to “Get Up Stand Up” is just too priceless, amirite? Of course, I’ve come to terms with Marley and his importance to Jamaican music since my prime reggae-hatin’ days (approx. 1996-2002), but being an American who’s lived in a college town for most of his adult life yields a certain dismissiveness to Marley fans which I can’t seem to shake, having witnessed countless lame Trustafarians bowing at the Altar of Bob at the expense of all else.

Of course, that sort of fawning isn’t unique to the U.S. Marley was hailed a hero in Jamaica, in a fashion which U.S. pop stars are hopelessly incapable of matching. Bob Dylan? Psssh. Springsteen? ARE YOU KIDDING? Marley was more like Lincoln or something, a fact which was the initial impetus leading to the making of Alan Greenberg’s amazing 1982 documentary Land of Look Behind. Greenberg’s original goal was to get footage of Bob Marley’s funeral, and that massive event indeed anchors the film, but he also got more than he bargained for, ending up with a film that is perhaps the most telling and remarkable portrait of Rasta culture yet made. It knocks even Rockers out of the running for greatest reggae film, as far as I’m concerned, and I’m not the only one who thinks so: both (Greenberg collaborator) Werner Herzog and Jim Jarmusch have gone on record praising this film to the heavens.

Somehow, though, this hasn’t been good enough to keep it in print (I’m kicking myself for selling my DVD copy of it in a fit of attempted minimalism, as it’s now going for a bundle on Amazon). As such, you’re going to have to settle for this not-great Youtube version (not that the quality was ever very slick… the raw footage actually got dropped in the water in Jamaica!). Trust me, it’s worth any strain on the eyes.


Dustin Krcatovich is a cartoonist, writer, designer, founder of FM DUST, and a collector of certain curios and ephemera (with a focus on 20th century "junk culture"). His writing and illustration work appears frequently in The Quietus, Tiny Mix Tapes, and Esquire's Culture Blog. He is also a former editor and contributor to Secret Zen Garden,Saagara's illustrated mindfulness/wellness blog for young people. He currently resides in Portland, OR.

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