The Upsetter: The Life And Music Of Lee Scratch Perry – documentary

June 23, 2008

Just back from seeing this documentary at the EIFF, and I’m quietly seething.

It’s presented as a chronology, but although his early years in Jamaica are dealt with (almost) adequately up until the torching of Black Ark, there’s way too much cutting away to Perry messing around in the snow in present-day Switzerland (archive footage rights expense perhaps?).

From 1980 onwards though, according to the documentary makers, Perry apparently fell into deep depression and drug addicted inactivity until seemingly being rescued from obscurity in 2000 by his appearance on a Beastie Boys album track, leading to him doing a Guiness ad in the USA and planning a 2007/2008 ‘comeback’ world tour.

Erm… I’ve more than 20 albums recorded by him during this allegedly ‘inactive’ period, and saw him several times on various tours in the 1990s.

No mention of Adrian Sherwood? Or even the Mad Professor? What were the makers thinking?

I’d advise any Perry fans to stay well away from this doc – what I’d consider to be very shoddy work (at best) and blatant revisionism of the lowest order (at worst).

A real opportunity missed, though perhaps folk who’ve never heard of him before might be drawn in.

Frankly, though, there’s better archive footage of him both performing and ranting away up on YouTube.



Sept 09 EDIT – Since this post’s been getting a fair amount of traffic, I thought I’d link it to this one in case anyone’s interested…

Feb 12 EDIT – For anyone stumbling across this old post, just discovered that this film is now available here from Should you still be interested.  Also rental and download available.