Jacob Miller, the John Belushi of reggae music -- funny, fat and too soon dead -- leaps and sweats, spills Jamaican sound around, smokes a spliff. Jakes shakes, especially when the devilish, defiant Rasta man sings his grassroots classic, "Tired fe Lick Weed in a Bush."
His performance is a large part of a charismatic concert film, "Heartland Reggae," 90 minutes of mostly music in tribute to the Rastafarians. Miller and the late Bob Marley -- The Prophet, the spiritualist -- are the lost stars in this roughcut, atmospheric island film filled with black pride, pot and polemics.
Miller and Marley are gone, so regardless of your beliefs or the film's bias, "Heartland" is nostalgic, historical, to be valued. Most of it takes place in April 1978 at the One Love Peace Concert, which calmed the bitter struggle between then-Prime Minister Michael Manley and leader of the opposition party Edward Seaga. There was a kind of "all we are saying is give peace a chance" mood in the Kingston National Stadium that night, cresting on the torrent of Marley's "Jah Live."
"Heartland Reggae," a low-budget but imaginative effort by Canadian director Jim Lewis, also features performances by Dennis Brown and Peter Tosh, with a little of Judy Mowat, Junior Tucker (not really reggae) and Althea & Donna.
The film is narrated by Ras Lee Morris from a script by Lewis and John Sutton Smith. His voice is bursting with good humor and wistfulness. All's red and yellow and green here. The African Dream. "If you're black, you're an African man." A Rastafarian. And Morris, though his accent's hard to penetrate, is saying reggae is the Rastas' language, sung with a beat that pulses throughout the Caribbean. HEARTLAND REGGAE -- At the Inner Circle.