Reviews & Columns
International DVDs
In Theaters
Reviews by Studio
Video Games

Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Anime Talk
DVD Savant
Horror DVDs
The M.O.D. Squad
Art House
HD Talk
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum

DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info


Land Of Look Behind

Subversive Cinema // Unrated // January 30, 2007
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted February 15, 2007 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

To date, the only feature from director Alan Greenberg, the 1982 documentary Land Of Look Behind started off as what he figured would be a piece detailing Bob Marley's funeral. When Marley passed away from cancer in his brain and his lungs in 1981, he was given a state funeral, which borrowed elements from both traditional Christian burials and Rastafarian beliefs and combined them into one unique and very moving ceremony. Everyone knows that the popularity of his music has skyrocketed since he passed away at such a young age, and that Marley's image is, these days, almost as identifiable as that of Elvis Presley or John Lennon so it might surprise some to see the lack of pomp and circumstance surrounding his rather humble (but no less interesting) funeral as it appears on film here.

From there, however, Greenberg caught on to something and the film became more than simply a record of Marley's funeral. Once the ceremony was over he turned his cameras on the people who made Bob Marley what he was, those who practiced the unique religion called Rastafari. As such, Greenberg, through interviews and fly on the wall documentary footage, is able to dig below the surface of Jamaican culture and show us how music, writing and religion all play a key part in the day to day lives of many of the people who live where Marley grew up and believe what he believed in.

All of this is shot by Jörg Schmidt-Reitwein, the man who has been responsible for many a Werner Herzog film such as Herdsmen Of The Sun, Woyzeck and Nosferatu. As such, it looks as pretty as you'd expect it to and the camera manages to get places that most cinematographer's probably wouldn't be interested in taking it. A close attention to detail shows us more minute aspects of the region, it captures the poverty of the people along with the happiness they share together and it gives us a look at the conditions in which they live and the styles that they've made their own.

Of course, with marijuana use playing an important part in Rastafari culture, it will surprise no one to learn that many of the people interviewed here – from priests and mystics to shopkeepers and simple citizens – appear to be under the influence. The documentary never feels like its exploiting these people though, nor does it ever appear to be poking fun at them or making them out to be Cheech & Chong style burn-outs. It's simply a part of the culture and a part of the belief system that these people share.

Music, of course, plays a huge part in the documentary. Gregory Isaacs performs on camera and even when there isn't any live music happening in front of us the impact and the importance of music to these people is never far away. An understated electronic score courtesy of K. Leimer helps accentuate the emotions that the filmmakers are likely trying to get across in certain scenes quite nicely but it's the Reggae music that is used in the movie that will likely appeal to most people interested in the picture.

Ultimately, Land Of Look Behind is a peek into the soul of rural Jamaica and what makes it stand out from the rest of the world. Marley's influence is prominent throughout and his funeral is used very effectively as a launching pad to explore this culture but Marley himself, despite appearing on the cover, isn't really the focus of the picture so much as the culture that spawned him is. The movie, like its subject, is strange and it definitely moves at its own pace, but its this laid back quality that helps it at least partially capture the essence of what it's out to document.



The anamorphic widescreen transfer on this dual layer disc has been re-mastered in high definition from the original 16mm elements and for the most part, it looks nice and sharp. Considering that the movie was shot under less than ideal circumstances, it's not surprising to see that the lighting isn't always perfect and that there's some heavy grain present. Much of the footage looks quite soft but it's hard to tell if that was on purpose or not – if it wasn't, it does work in the film's favor as it gives it all a somewhat dreamlike look that compliments the subject matter rather appropriately. Land Of Look Behind transfers to DVD very nicely indeed, as long as you understand going in that the elements for this transfer were far from pristine.


The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is, for the most part, clean and clear and free of any hiss or distortion. Some of this material was shot somewhat haphazardly and so there are a few scenes where the levels fluctuate a bit, but that's really the worst complaint that someone can levy against this otherwise fine sounding mix.


The main extra feature on this DVD is a full-length audio commentary track from Alan Greenberg who is joined here by Subversive Cinema head honcho Norm Hill and the one and only Werner Herzog (Greenberg worked with Herzog on Heart Of Glass). This is a very active and engaging talk that's handled with a nice sense of humor that keeps things interesting but which doesn't get in the way of the information flow. Greenberg talks about his time in Jamaica and how he came to spearhead this project while Herzog (whose involvement in this commentary is minimal) and Hill probe him for details and allow him to elaborate on certain aspects of the production history and his experiences working on the project. Greenberg's got a sharp memory and tells some interesting stories about the people he interviewed for the film, pointing out one man that was a squatter who had built his own house on land he didn't own, while Norm prompts him to explain the significance of the newspaper clippings that appear on walls here and there. His thoughts on the interviews with the female Rastafari are interesting as he explains how they simply want to 'bring in the masculine' while Hill presses him to explain the intricacies of the Jamaican 'language' which is why certain scenes are subtitled. There are a few instances of dead air during some of the slower moments of the movie but overall this is a pretty interesting track that explains this odd little movie from the director's standpoint.

Not listed on the packaging for this release are two featurettes that can be found in the extra features menu. The first, Exploring Land Of Look Behind (24:05), is an on camera interview with Greenberg where he talks about how he has an incessant obsession with exploring new kinds of music and how he sometimes incorporates his discoveries with whatever project he's working on. Herzog shows up here as well and talks to his beliefs on how music and film work together to create on piece of art and he explains how the music in Land Of Look Behind is the music that plays such a huge part in the lifestyle shown in the movie.

The second featurette, Working With Herzog (17:38), is a piece that explains the working relationship shared between Herzog and Greenberg. It covers how they met and how they came to collaborate, as well as how they feel about the work they've made together and about working with one another. Both men really obviously admire each other and while some of this comes across as insanely complimentary at times, it's still interesting to hear their stories.

Closing out the extra features on the DVD itself are cast and crew biographies, a Subversive trailer gallery (including a trailer for the feature), a DVD credits screen, animated menus, and chapter stops.

Also included in the first 5,000 copies of this release is the film's original soundtrack on audio CD. The tracks on this disc are as follows:

Welcome – Jammy Galloway
Time Will Tell – Bob Marley And The Wailers
Verse – Jammy Galloway
Tribute To Bob Marley – Lui Lepki
Crazy Baldhead – Bob Marley And The Wailers
Cry Of The Look Behind – Micalon Stevenson
Running Away – Bob Marley And The Wailers
Where Do I Belong? - Mutabaruka
All My Friends - Mutabaruka
Natural Mystic – Bob Marley And The Wailers
Wisdom And Knowledge – Coptic Priest, Jammy Galloway
A Worldwide Language – Gregory Isaacs
Poor And Clean – Gregory Isaacs And The Roots Radics Band
Party In The Slum – Gregory Isaacs And The Roots Radics Band
The Captives - Prisoners, Guns Court
Sun Is Shining – Bob Marley And The Wailers
Strangers Outside Cannot Know – Micalon Stevenson
Crisis – Bob Marley And The Wailers

If that weren't enough, Subversive has also included a full color twenty-page booklet of production notes written in 2006 in director Alan Greenberg himself that explain how he came to shoot this project and essentially what it means to him. It's a decent history of the film and it rounds out the extra features quite nicely. An essay from director Jim Jarmusch is found on the back of the packaging for this set and while it isn't listed as an 'extra feature' per se, it's a decent little read in its own right.

Final Thoughts:

Whether or not you're a fan of Reggae music is irrelevant - Land Of Look Behind is a fascinating study of a unique spiritual culture and the people who have shaped it as much as it is an exploration of a musical genre. Subversive Cinema has given this unduly neglected masterpiece a fine special edtion release with very solid audio and video quality and a fantastic array of supplements. Highly recommended!

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

Buy from






Highly Recommended

E - M A I L
this review to a friend
Popular Reviews

Sponsored Links
Sponsored Links