Thursday, July 27, 2017

'Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World' (2017) Movie Review

Catherine Bainbridge’s documentary, Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World, uncovers the oft-ignored and overlooked contributions of Native Americans to the history of popular music. (Hint: It goes way deeper than the dude in the headdress from the Village People.)

An organic initial flow—tracing traditional tribal music through its origins and influence on early blues, and subsequently rock and roll—gives way to more episodic format later on, to diminishing returns. Eventually, Rumble starts to play like a catalog of Native American musicians, and it too often dwells solely on the surface.

Telling the audience that a particular performer was great is all well and good, and it sheds light on heretofore hidden corners of the rock and roll world. But the who's who of talking heads rarely illuminate the subject beyond heaping praise. There’s little examination of what made a particular person unique in the musical pantheon or of their lasting legacy. After a strong start, Rumble shifts into familiar music documentary territory, which is a shame, because the early going is enthralling.

But despite flaws, Rumble offers a revealing, engaging portrait of a too-long-unseen slice of our collective popular culture. It’s a must for music lovers and anyone with an interest in the history and evolution of rock and roll, though it often works best as a celebration rather than offering much insight. And dammit, I’ve had Link Wray’s “Rumble” stuck in my head for like a week now. [Grade: B]

This is an expanded version of a capsule review from the Seattle International Film Festival.

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