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The First Rasta

The First Rasta

Genre: Documentary Director: Hélène Lee Cast: Leonard Howell Writers: Rating: M Run Time: 86 min


At the beginning of the last century, the young Leonard Percival Howell (1898 - 1981) left Jamaica, became a sailor and travelled the world. On his way, he chanced upon all the ideas that stirred his time. From Boshevism to New Thought, fram Ghandi to anarchism, from Garveyism to psychoanalysis, he sought to find his promised land. With this cocktail of ideas Leonard "Gong" Howell returned to Jamaica and founded Pinnacle, the first Rasta community in 1939.

By Recreating a backdrop of that time from film achives, police reports and newspaper articles, we follow in the wake of this adventure and track the evolution of his thinking. Through direct witnesses we trace his evolution, from his return home in 1932 to the first manifestations of his movement. For the first time, these centenarian survivors describe a Rasta movement that is very different from the usual clichéd images.

Their interviews, sparkling with humor and common sense, outline not only the silhouette of a great leader, but the daily struggle of a handful of men and women who stand without fear in the face of an all powerful global system. An example of incredible moral courage at a time when black people in America and Africa were still considered to be sub-human and were subjected to forced labor and racial discrimination. They paid the price for this bold stand through relentless persecution and through systematic misinformation bent on makeing them look crazy.

This documentary sheds a new light on the Rasta Movement, its origins and vision.

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