A mediation on India. Donisha explores the distinct similarities and connections between Hinduism and Rastafari. She meets with “ganja” smoking, dreadlocked Sadhus (Hindu holy men) in Varanasi and discuss the mingling of elements of Rastafari in Jamaica and Hinduism in India.
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Donisha’s film odyssey, therefore, is both personal and historical, as she balances revelations about Rastafari with her own self-discovery.
The vision of the film is to look at Rastafari from a global perspective—moving out from the more familiar images of Jamaica to the various ways in which this religion and this movement has moved beyond the tiny Caribbean Island, how the ways in which the message of Rastafarianism has manifested itself in diverse cultures, how the tenants of the religion are rooted in history and made relevant by contemporary issues. The film’s narrative will unfold as a voyage of discovery driven by an intense desire on the part of Donisha to both understand the past and make clear a meaning for the present.
The film stays focused on Donisha—as a Rasta woman, as a young convert—as she personally discusses and experiences first hand the ways in which this movement has spread around the world. Her questions, her knowledge informs the narrative, and her vibrant and inquisitive personality drives the fast-paced and youthful nature of the film.
Through Donisha we learn the history, the core values, the cultural impact of a religion that was inspired by history and propagated through the music of her grandfather, helping us find new spiritual meaning in a fast changing, chaotic world.
The aim of the film is bring the issues and message of Rastafari into a contemporary context, illustrating how the acceptance of Rasta in Canada is in mark contrast to other cultures.
The Canadian Rasta story is a message for the 21st century, of how prejudice is formed from misinformation and myths, and how the acceptance of cultural harmony is both the model of Canadian culture and the triumph of multiculturalism.
Mixing rare archive footage, driven by the infectious rhythm of the music, told through interviews and interactions of Donisha with elders, with young converts, looking for connections and traditions rooted in the past, and the beliefs of a movement dedicated to living in the present.
RasTa is filled with archival history, and brought to life through Donisha’s passion for knowledge and charismatic personality, as she takes us up close and personal with people and places that will help unlock the mysteries of this movement, pull back the veil of misunderstanding and allow all of us to share the journey and the knowledge of a young women in pursuit of personal truth and contemporary relevance.
RasTa converges music and meaning in new ways, making a religious and spiritual movement more accessible to young people, and more understandable to all of us.
Stuart Samuels, director/producer
London, UK — Donisha visits landmarks and communities, which would have been familiar to her grandfather. She visits with notable Rastafarians, business success, artists and personalities, who populate these spaces and communities today. Many are able to offer anecdotes of Bob Marley’s early presence London, early activism against racism and social unrest in the 70’s – hopes and dreams against the realities similar conditions in Jamaica. Rastafari provided a spiritual escape and source of black pride? These discussions are juxtaposed against black life today in London – observations on how things have changed and how they have not.
Most of my previous documentaries deal with the relationship of popular culture and history. Music is a universal language, but the stories are local as well as global. This film is part of my documentary approach, taking global pop culture and through comparison and contrast and illuminate how different cultures and society deal with similar pop cultural phenomena.
Rasta and Bob Marley have a deep and continuing connection to Canadian and global culture. His music influence is truly local and global–worldwide.
RasTa presents a point of view documentary approach. By treating this movement and this journey in a global perspective, the film will be able to highlight what is unique about the way the story of Rasta and the influence of Marley play a role in Canadian and world culture.
The history of Rastafari and the influence of Marley in Canada stand in stark contrast to the way the movement and lifestyle have developed throughout the world.
Canada’s multi-cultural landscape, especially in Toronto, treats Rastafarians in a way that is significantly different from the “ghetto” like experiences in places like South Africa; the contentious issues surrounding the story of Rastafarians in Jamaica; the way it has developed and spread in the UK.
Showing the connection between Rasta and Hindu culture and Judaism, is part of the story of how Rasta has been accepted and flourishes in places like Toronto where connections between different ethnic groups and religions are part of the multi-cultural landscape.
Jerusalem & Tel Aviv, Israel – Donisha visits with Rastafarians living in the Kibbutz Tze’eelim aka “Jamaica in the Desert”. She searches for the truths behind the Rastafarian references to the Star of David; in legends, which state that one of the 12 ancient Hebraic tribes may have been Black. She grapples with the Israeli struggle for their homeland vs her own Rastafarians desire for repatriation to Africa? Although the Rastafari livity in Israel is not a religious phenomena it is a value system espousing peace, love, unity and socialist elements that draws inspiration from the songs of Bob Marley.
Sheshemane, Ethiopia — Ethiopia is to Rastafarians what Mecca is to Muslims. Donisha visits Sheshemane, where many Rastafarians aspire to return. In 1948, Emperor Haile Selassie granted the land as a gesture of acknowledgement to Rastafarians. Few have actually made the journey and fewer still have settled there. Donisha explores this incongruity with some of the brethren now living in Sheshemane. If few Rastas have repatriated themselves physically, can ‘returning to Africa’ be a metaphysical state rather than geographical one?
Cape Town & Kynsna, South Africa — The Judah Square Rastafarian Community is one of the largest and most organized Rastafarian communities in South Africa. Judah’s Square is the venue for the annual Rastafarian Earth Festival. Donisha experiences, first hand, the effects of Reggae and the Rastafarian Movement on an international community. Her grandfather’s music often called attention to the political strife occurring during the Apartheid years in South Africa. How does the Rastafarian community in Kynsna come to the terms with the legacy of Apartheid?
Washington DC, USA — Donisha Prendergast visits the Smithsonian Institute’s DISCOVERING RASTAFARI exhibit. She reasons with curator, Jake Homiak about the roots and inspirations in the birth of Rastafari: Marcus Garvey; Emperor Haile Selassie; as well as her Grandfather, Bob Marley, and his role as a “major conduit” in the popularization of the philosophies of Rastafari around the world. This visit springboards her quest to travel to the various countries to learn more.
Kingston & Pinnacle, Jamaica — While in Jamaica Donisha visits Pinnacle, the site of the first Rastafarian settlement. She travels to Trench Town, where her grandparents once lived. This trod helps her summarize what her faith means to her, and how it might be changing as the elder foot soldiers that worked to gain acceptance give way to younger men and women. Younger views about the movement are evolving in ways that are uncomfortable to the elders, who continue to shun all materials trappings and systems associated with Babylon.