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JOURNEY TO JAH is documentary directed by by Noël Dernesch & Moritz Springer.

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JOURNEY TO JAH: Gentleman, Alborosie and Terry Lynn in search of a (musical/spiritual) homeland

What becomes of utopias when we live them? And the power of ideas to unite people across borders: what is it made of? The ambitious feature documentary film JOURNEY TO JAH by Noël Dernesch and Moritz Springer aims to capture the global phenomenon of “Crossing Borders,” and to document the experience of integration into a foreign culture. Over the course of a year, the film accompanies the internationally celebrated European musicians Gentleman and Alborosie, who have found a new spiritual homeland in the Caribbean culture of Jamaica, and shows the Jamaican singer Terry Lynn, whose musical style is oriented antithetically to European genres. The protagonists’ music emerges as both soundtrack and identity, as an attitude towards life itself, as religion, and, for the filmmakers, as a means to probe into the ghettos of Jamaica.

In search of authenticity beyond Western consumer society, the reggae musicians Gentleman and Alborosie—a German and a Sicilian—have opted for life in a country where music equals politics and the key to change, but also perpetuates discrimination and antagonism. JOURNEY TO JAH is no hymn to Rasta and reggae—it brings together a sense of passion for this culture and its music with a documentation of corruption, violence, sexism, the struggle to survive, and the clash of disparate cultures. Thus, for example, Jamaican musician Terry Lynn sings with brutal honesty about abuses in the ghetto. In her music, she practices social criticism and talks about sex with equal self-assurance, and so has become a role model for a generation of young Jamaican women.

Along with Alborosie, Gentleman, and Terry Lynn, the filmmakers also speak with Jamaican literature professor Carolyn Cooper—an eminent authority on the subject of Rasta culture and reggae; with Natty, Gentleman’s best friend on the island and a staunch Rastafari; as well as with Luciano, a Jamaican roots reggae singer.

The filmmakers were able to successfully drum up a portion of the financing totaling $60,000 (to date the greatest sum for any German documentary film) using crowdfunding—one means of producing independent films. Internet users contributed to the documentary using an online platform and were then awarded with a DVD, the movie soundtrack, concert tickets, or an invitation to the premiere, depending on the size of their donation—thus enabling the team to begin shooting in Jamaica. The independent project also found backers in the Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, the German Federal Film Fund, through their Swiss co-producer Pixiu Films, in the Swiss Federal Agency of Culture and the Zurich Film Foundation.

The film is directed by Noël Dernesch and Moritz Springer, who also share credit for the screenplay. The camera is manned by Markus Winterbauer (“Rhythm Is It”). Andrew Bird (“The Edge of Heaven,” “Crossing the Bridge”) and Andreas Menn (“The Green Wave,” “Hell”) have been brought onboard as editors. The film’s festival premiere is slated for early 2013. JOURNEY TO JAH is a German/Swiss co-production by Port au Prince Film & Kultur Produktion GmbH (Distributor: DE – ZORRO Film) and Pixiu Films GmbH (Distributor: CH – LOOK NOW).