Film Reviews

Review: ‘Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World’

Hot Docs 2017

Courtesy of Hot Docs

Rumble: Indians Who Rocked The World
(Canada, 103 min.)
Dir. Catherine Bainbridge, Alfonso Maiorana
Programme: Special Presentations (Canadian Premiere)

As a music film this talking-head style documentary may not break much new ground, and the cynical may dismiss it as just another in a long line of similarly themed retrospective works. Yet the key to really appreciating Rumble: Indians Who Rocked The World is found in a quote from Robbie Robertson, where he speaks of being told to be proud of his Indigenous heritage, but to never speak of it to those outside of the community.

Loudly, proudly, Catherine Bainbridge’s Rumble reclaims its territory of music pedigree for a wider audience, highlighting artists from blues legend Charlie Patton and jazz singer Mildred Bailey through to Jimi Hendrix and guitarist Jesse Ed Davis, along with stalwarts such as Buffy Sainte Marie. The film’s title refers to the garage-rock twang of Link Wray’s iconic track from 1958, an immensely influential hit that used the magic of the power chord to influence generations of rockers to come.

With recollections by Native and non-native fans alike (including Robertson’s regular colleague Martin Scorsese), the film effectively illustrates how varying Indigenous tonalities, rhythms and phrasings contributed alongside the African American, European and Country roots to form much of the popular music of the past six decades. Occasionally the connections drawn are stretched thin but the strings still resonate, allowing both a showcase and a celebration of the myriad of contributions from First Nation communities on contemporary musical culture.

From the earliest sounds of Jazz through to folk songs performed at recent pipeline protests, the power and spirit of these Indigenous musicians continues to play a vital role at the heart of this form of expression, and Rumble is laudable for calling attention to this oft overlooked aspect of our collective history.

Rumble screens:
-Sunday, April 30 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 8:45 PM
-Tuesday, May 2 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 1:15 PM

Read more about Rumble in the current issue of POV, now available!

Visit the POV Hot Docs Hub for more coverage from this year’s festival!