Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Dreadlock Story - converged by spiritual realm

Published:Sunday | September 6, 2015 | 9:00 AM
Sadhu with dreadlocks.
A Rasta in a Hindu Temple
A piece of the parish of St Thomas
Linda Ainouche - Indian Indentured Worker.
Sadhu performing a ritual.

It is a story that is intertwined, literally and figuratively. One that is separated by time zones, but bound by a singular thread - that of a shared belief system. Dreadlock Story, a social commentary, chronicling the Rastafari movement - and the Indian influence on it, is winning critical acclaim.

"The idea of Dreadlocks Story is a convergence of many things," said Linda Ainouche, writer, producer and director of the documentary. "It is a work of my relentless observation and awareness of what is surrounding me, my longing to become an ethnographic filmmaker, my interests for cross-cultural - India and Jamaica culture - as well as the goal to stress a conscious of criticising the system of colonialism rather than any nation specifically."

Call it an eclectic mix of culture, collaborations and ethnicities grounded in a heady and potent spice mixture from the mystical holy men, Sadhus on the banks of the Ganges, one of India's holiest rivers, their belief systems and permeation of that system across the seven seas.

The commonality, Ainouche says, is profound.

"I wanted to show people that in the face of adversity, there is still hope, beauty, and the possibility of something new," she said. "Jamaican and Indian people were oppressed by a common British colonial force, and they created a form of self-expression that grew from the very powers that persecuted them."

Dreadlock Story, according to Ainouche, explores the Rastafari culture's roots in Hindu tradition, converged by the universal language, that of love.

"Rastafari influenced by Hinduism is based on love and was born because of murky persecutions," she said. "This is fantastic proof of resistance from a misunderstood community."

The genesis of the documentary comes from her travel and work in India, and her deep-rooted affinity for the land of the mystique and its spiritualities. The connection, she says, was made when she lived in Jamaica.

"It was quite obvious to me that Indian influences were deeply rooted into the local culture," Ainouche said, "especially Rastafari, even though the knowledge of it was lacked."

"Combining these elements together," she said, "it became clear to me that I had to do a documentary on the links between Rastafari and Hinduism to restore some thoughts and understanding of our world history."


Chronicling history is perhaps a tricky task, with information overload, perspectives, counter-perspectives, perceived notions and beliefs - it is a heady cocktail.

Ainouche, through her project, wants to highlight the raison d'Ítre which brought influence of the dreadlocked holy men in India to the Caribbean.

"I was inspired by the ignorance on Indian enslavement to the Caribbean basin," she said. "Indians had never been anything else than oppressed by the colonists. Plus, I must enlighten on what shocks me in this world, such as the many misconceptions and judgements people have of history and culture.

"Few, however, have taken the time to understand their past and explore the powerful symbol of perseverance that these cultures represent," she said.

Ainouche's journey to being a filmmaker is as intricately intertwined as the subject matter of Dreadlock Story itself - the New York-based, France-born anthropologist researcher-turned-documentary director and producer has spent the majority of her life studying, working, and travelling around the world.

"I'm enthusiastic about adventurous fieldwork and I love immersing myself in misunderstood and indigenous communities," she said. "I also truly enjoy synthesising my background in research with my passion of documentary."

Dreadlock Story shows the influences and reasons of Indian culture to the Rasta movement wrapped and based on historical facts.

"In other words," she said, "we can discover the Hindu way of life, especially of Sadhus, in the practices of the Rasta way of life."

The documentary has garnered rave reviews and has been screened at the Piton International Film Festival, Saint Lucia, and will be shown at the upcoming trinidad+tobago film festival in Port-of-Spain (September 15-29), the International Scientific Film Festival (Szolnok, October 15-18), and the Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival (Taipei, October 2-6, 2015).

Ironically, the documentary is yet to hit the silver screen in Jamaica.

"I will come in person to show the film to the island," she said. "I have the Jamaican audience in mind, no worries ... ."

During the course of the filming, Ainouche said she met and spoke with the most reputed experts specialising in the history of Indians in Jamaica and Rastafari culture.

"Not only am I grateful that they agreed to take part in my project, but their knowledge on the subjects were inestimable to create my story, as there are a few of them," she said.

The documentary does not have any narration.

"A voiceover would have made the film feel distant," Ainouche said. "Making an 'us versus them' that is ultimately counterproductive of my idea of what ethnography and documentary can transmit, although it is really challenging to tell a story with several people speaking in different languages."

The idea, she said, is not to discriminate or pre-prejudice.

"This is a matter of being open-minded," she says, adding that Dreadlock Story is only one drop in the big ocean of knowledge, education and tolerance of our world.

"I hope my film can get people beyond stigma and clichÈs, and therefore, beyond wrong ideas to live in a better world," Ainouche said.