Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s “Vision Of Paradise” to premiere July 4th at London’s East End Film Festival

By on July 2, 2015

For the past fifteen years or so, director/producer Volker Schaner has been following Lee “Scratch” Perry around with his camera, capturing everything “The Prophet” of the international Rastafari movement and the Godfather of dub has said and done, but the result, Vision of Paradise, is not so much an authentic bio-doc as it is, as described, a “fairytale documentary,” partly animated and always eye-opening.

This weekend the film makes its debut, at the East End Film Festival at the Genesis Cinema, on Saturday, July 4, 2015, and Perry will be in attendance, participating with the director in a sit-down Q&A after the screening that is sure to be memorable.

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Schaner — based in Berlin — says he first discovered Scratch’s music as a teenager in Germany and it came as a revelation to him: “[I found] a story that is almost impossible to believe: a revelation, told about and with one of the major protagonists of contemporary music. The movie can be seen as a guide for how to change the world with music – with a positive attitude, mindset or, as Lee Perry calls it: ‘vibration.'”

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After graduating from college, he formed his own production company and worked on everything from children’s animation to documentaries and TV commercials. Schaner’s desire to make a movie with Lee Perry eventually began to take shape in 1999, thinking at the time that he would make a relatively straight-forward bio-doc on Perry, one of the icons of the Black Power movement and “the” inventor of reggae and dub.

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Schaner began making trips to Perry’s house, recording him, getting to know him and gaining his trust, traveling back and forth from Jamaica, Ethiopia, Germany, Switzerland (where Perry currently lives) and London.

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Schaner was ultimately granted the kind of personal access into Perry’s fantastical, spiritual world that most filmmakers could only dream about, and that’s why the film seems like a dream sequence, a life’s work summed up through fantastical artwork and animation — said to have been “influenced by Ethiopian Orthodox Church art and the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine — and mind-blowing one-on-one interviews, and, of course, Perry’s monologues for the camera.

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Vision of Paradise traces Perry’s life from the 1950s, when he worked at Clemente Coxsone Dodd’s label, then follows him as he worked for Joe Gibb’s Amalgamated Records, and then on as he formed his own company, Upsetter, in 1968, looking back over the days when he did his earliest mixing board experiments that virtually created dub music. The film continues forward, through the founding of the Upsetters and the Black Ark recording studio, built in 1973, where he worked with Bob Marley, Junior Murvin, the Heptones, Max Romeo, The Congos and countless others.

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Along the way, he met with Dennis Bovell, Martin ‘Youth’ Glover and Adrian Sherwood, all of whom are featured in the film. Perry has recorded with so many varied artists that just listing them now seems like a kind of random exercise in naming artists who don’t sound like they’d otherwise be associated with each other: The Orb, Keith Richards, The Beastie Boys, George Clinton, David Lynch, Andrew WK, Moby, Ari Up of the Slits, Bill Laswell, Tunde Adebimpe (TV on the Radio), Sly Dunbar, Brian Chippendale of Lightning Bolt, even porn star Sasha Grey.

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The film provides key insights and highlights overlooks much of what has probably been forgotten about Perry over the years, like the fact that “Trenchtown Rock” by the Wailers written about Perry after he’d burned up his studio in a fit of rage because he felt had too much negative energy. (By 1978, the Black Ark had fallen into disrepair and it’s likely it burned down due to other reasons, but Perry has always claimed to have set the fire himself).

A few years back, Schaner reached out to Perry’s fans on Kickstarter to raise $22,000 in completion funds (Schaner financed the rest of the film himself), but the post-production took a few more years, and the film is just now beginning to be shown at film festivals, beginning with the July 4th screening in London.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.