Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World Dir: Catherine Bainbridge & Alfonso Maiorana (NZIFF)

Here’s a well-intentioned, ambitious music documentary determined to shine a light on the influence of Native Americans in the history of rock & roll. Its scatter-shot approach hits as many targets as it misses.

It’s a great idea for a film and there is a wealth of material to choose from, but director Catherine Bainbridge seems almost overwhelmed with the task at hand, trying to squeeze in every musician over the past century with anY Indian blood in them.

All starts well enough as Bainbridge’s camera focuses on Link Wray, the man behind Rumble, one of the most influential instrumental records ever pressed. Wray pretty much invented the power chord and Rumble was so ominous that it still managed to get banned in a few places back in 1959, even though it had no lyrics… quite an achievement in itself!

But just has we’re settling into Link Wray’s story…his childhood growing up in poverty in North Carolina…having to avoid Klansmen, etc…the film jumps to early bluesman Charley Patton, another influential guitarist with a great story. One of the film’s finest moments is when one of Patton’s relatives shows us, in vivid detail, how Patton’s Indian heritage helped form the blues.

But then again we’re off, this time focussing on female jazz singer Mildred Bailey. The film-makers seem to assume that we know her work, but I could have used more of an introduction.

But no time for that because we move on to vignettes on Robbie Robertson, Jimi Hendrix, Jessie Ed David, Redbone, Buffy Sainte Marie and Ozzy Osbourne drummer Randy Castillo.

These sections whet my appetite for full length docos on Davis, Patton, Wray, etc, but at the same time, I could help feeling that I was simply watching trailers for films that had yet to be made.

Along the way there are a host of commentators including George Clinton, David Fricke, Martin Scorsese, Steven Van Zandt, Tony Bennett, Dan Auerbach, Taj Mahal and the omnipresent Iggy Pop. Some of them, such as Van Zandt, have great insights, while others, such as Auerbach, look like they wandered in to the wrong film.

Another small gripe is the somewhat cheesy, and unnecessary recreations that pop up along the way.

Having said that, Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World still has plenty to offer and I would still recommended it. But now I’m really hoping for a full-length film on Jessie Ed Davis.

Marty Duda