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Bob Marley deserves a lot of credit for helping spread the Rastafarian philosophy around the world, but the man who started the religion is something of a footnote to all but the most dedicated followers of Jamaican cultural history. The First Rasta is a documentary that attempts to tell the tale of Leonard Percival Howell, but a scarcity of archival anything—papers from his trial, newspaper reports, photos, film—hamstrings the production from the start. The iconoclastic Howell left Jamaica at 14 because he wouldn’t testify in a murder trial. He boarded a ship, worked in Panama, and eventually ended up in Harlem in 1923 where he became a follower of another prominent Jamaican intellectual in exile, Marcus Garvey. By the time Howell returned to Jamaica, he was preaching anti-colonialism and predicting the rise of a black king in Africa. Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia fulfilled Howell’s “prophecy” and a new religion emerged preaching self-reliance and empowerment. But The First Rasta skips many important hows and whys in explaining Howell’s evolution and rise, giving a frustratingly incomplete picture of this important and controversial figure.