There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
In this surprisingly thorough documentary, Jamaican musicians and historians recount the roots of Rastafarianism—tracing it from the brutal European colonization of the Caribbean to the positive messages in the reggae music that emerged in sixties. The impoverished descendants of slaves first found identity in the progressive, empowering speeches of Marcus Garvey (a John The Baptist figure to many Rastas). The emergence of Haile Selassie (also known as Ras Tafari) as a great leader in Ethiopia seemed to fulfill much of what Garvey had prophesied, and the religion of Rastafarianism was born. Holding on to Jah studies Selassie’s monumental visit to Jamaica and the transformation of Rastafarianism from maligned practice to accepted tradition. After the upbeat ska of the ’50s and the laid-back rocksteady that followed, reggae found a tempo between the two that allegedly mirrors the BPM of a human heart at rest. Reggae musicians paired the positive thinking of Rastafarianism with the new musical voice of the ghetto, garnering international attention. The film itself works hard to balance academic interviews with clips of locals, splicing in a good measure of Garvey’s speeches and footage of Selassie himself. Though it may not have the broadest appeal, the documentary treats its subject with the utmost care and digs in deep.