Every year there are a few music documentaries that perform the delicate balancing act of being informative and crowd-pleasing at the same time. Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana’s Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World is easily a film that fits the criteria. Offering a thorough look at the historical contributions of indigenous musicians to the American music landscape, the film is truly eye-opening.
Tracing things back to Link Wray’s ground-breaking distorted guitar work on his song “Rumble”, an instrumental tune that was banned by many American radio stations and praised by generations of musicians, the film details how that track would forever change rock ‘n’ roll music. Along with showcasing the evolution of rock music, blues, jazz, folk, pop and even hip hop, Rumble also provides great insight into the hardships that Native Americans endured over the years.
Many of which paralleled and intersected with the racism that African-Americans and other minority groups experienced at the time. As Robbie Robertson points out, the saying “be proud you are an Indian, but be careful who you tell” was a matter of survival.
Featuring the likes of Robertson, Martin Scorsese, Steven Tyler, Buffy St. Marie, Elliot Easton, Steven Van Zandt, Taboo of The Black Eyed Peas and a cavalcade of musicians, journalist and authors, the film has no shortage of intriguing insights. While Rumble effectively documents how the contributions of indigenous musicians can still be found music and pop culture, including films such as Guardians of the Galaxy and Pulp Fiction, the film does not deviate from the typical structure of other music docs. It often feels like a series of vignettes rather than a fluid tale. Fortunately, audiences will be so wrapped up in the engaging stories and toe-tapping tunes to notice the minor notes missed.
Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World plays Hot Docs on:
Sunday, April 30, 8:45 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Tuesday, May 2, 1:45 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox