A Sloppy But Informative Documentary About a Worthy Subject
Directed by Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana/ 2017
Street Date: October 24, 2017/Kino Lorber
Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World is a film that is informative and important, but not quite as informative or important as it’s trying to be. And part of that is simply the subject matter is not quite there. When you watch a doc that is about oppression, as Native Americans have suffered, and about music, which lives and grows off of the artists that came before, you hope for a central theme that powers through so hard that the film feels like it was more made from the combined passion of everyone involved. A movie that is so important and integral that it is the greatest untold story you never knew existed.
Rumble is not quite that movie. But it stretches to be that, with good intentions, to the point that you are afraid someone may pull a muscle.
The first half is definitely better than the second half. There are some very interesting tidbits that I had no idea of, including the fact that rhythm and blues came from runaway slaves finding shelter on Native’s reservations (Please someone make a movie about a slave creating music with a Native family).
Native American’s have a fine musical grandfather in Link Wray. Ultra-cool and ultra-talented, he feels like one of the major bridges between Blues and Rock N Roll. A Native American Elvis, if you will. His most popular track, the amazing song Rumble, which the film is named after, had a 90’s resurgence to more mainstream audiences when it appeared in Pulp Fiction.
The film then peaks with Jimi Hendrix. He was a musician who is viewed as an African American who broke through to the white audience, playing at Woodstock, but in reality he was a mix of different ethnicities, including Cherokee. One interviewee comments on the art work for him always depicting him with a much darker complexion than he actually had and covering up his Native roots.
From there, Rumble hits a wall that it tries to patch through. There is the band Redbone who had Come and Get Your Love. When the best you can do is point out it was in Guardians of the Galaxy, it probably didn’t have as monumental of an impact as you want.
Then it just turns into a scattershot of musicians. Randy Castillo, who played with Ozzy. No, not in Black Sabbath, just with Ozzy. Ozzy says at one time that Native Americans have a way to play music that comes from the nature that surrounds them, making him sound like a character in Get Out. Then there’s Robert Trujillo, the bassist from Metallica. You know, the terrible version of Metallica.
Even the inclusion of the great Robbie Robertson of The Band, which also ushers in The Last Waltz director Martin Scorsese, sitting in the same movie theater he is always interviewed in for these docs, talking about how amazing The Band is. And The Band is amazing, but besides him being an amazing musician who happened to be of Native American decent, I’m not sure what is being said.
The movie is worth checking out for some cool info and to pay respect to Native American musicians, who definitely deserve the recognition. But it unfortunately just does not have the power of Searching for Sugar Man, A Band Called Death, Muscle Shoals or 20 Feet From Stardom and some other music docs we have been spoiled with recently.