‘Dreadlock Story’ is a new documentary film taking place in France, Jamaica, India and the USA. Recently I had the chance to interview French filmmaker Linda Anichoe on her new film a ‘Dreadlock Story.’ The film not only examines the similarities between Indian sadhus or holy men and Rastas but gives credit to Hindus for the creation of Rastafari. The description on the film website reads ‘Due to British colonists, Indians and African descendants have met in the plantations and created something absolutely unique and indispensable to express what they had been oppressed by.’ Having just left Thailand, where I saw the Rasta culture becoming a generalized pop culture I was excited to speak with someone else internationally about Rastafari.
I contacted Ainouche in New York via phone while I was in Warsaw, Poland. Ainouche is an anthropologist turned filmmaker and the trailer for her first documentary is well, interesting. ‘Dreadlock Story’ declares to show the commonality between Hinduism and Rastafari. Many people may not relate the two but as a first-generation black American my first introduction to religion was Hinduism via my Indian great-grandmother, with whom I was raised. Later in my early teens I was introduced to Rastafari. Rastafari does shares a similar ideals on diet and health as Brahmin Hinduism and non-violence. I am presently a woman that identifies with strongly with Rastafari but still prays to Ganesha every morning. However Rastafari is a Christian-based spirituality and few Rastas believe in any Hindu deities unless they are from the Caribbean and are raised in the religion. Needless to say I was very curious to find out what was so inspirational to a French woman about my culture and faith.
Ainouche was very pleasant and excited to talk, yet although she spoke a lot she seemed determined to remain shrouded in mystery herself. She spoke in a thick French accent and from the photos I have seen of her appears to be of European descent. When I asked where she was from she replied that she was born in France however she was just multi-cultural and had lived in “many, many, many, countries all over the world.” As a fellow global citizen who has traveled extensively and lived abroad however her vagueness on her own cultural background seemed odd considering that her life is dedicated to documenting the cultures of others.
My next question to Ainouche was of course about her inspiration for the documentary. “What inspired you to want to make this film about Rastas?” Ainouche stated “I want to educate people that Rasta is more than reggae music and smoking weed.” She informed me that her Phd was in Jainism, an ancient Indian religion and stated that “As an anthropologist, that’s just what I do.” ‘Dreadlock Story’ took only two years to make, one of which was mostly editing. Ainouche’s website has a trailer for a second film, ‘A Paradise Stolen’ in which shows men reminiscing about their childhood in the first Rasta community in Jamaica so it does seem that she has an interest in Rasta culture, but why is still not really known.
Although Ainouche claims to want to show the real meaning of Rasta ‘Dreadlocks Story’ seems to be an attempt to actually discredit Rastafari by giving its credit to the Hindus with quotes such as “Even the physical appearance of Rastafari, the locks, can be traced back to influences from India.” While it is true that sadhus have locked hair, this style of hair has been found in ancient Egypt as well on mummies still intact. To say that ‘dreadlocks’ are only found in Rastafari is not, true. However to say that it has originated from India is also simply not true. Other quotes from participants in the trailer such as “You can’t be a Rasta, without your dreadlocks.” Make me question the film’s editing and intention as well. Rastas are quick to quote Morgan Heritage’s song ‘Don’t Haffi Dread’ by saying ‘You don’t have to dread to be Rasta.’ Although locks are often found in Rasta culture, they have also become very popular in Pop culture across the world and any Rastafarian you meet will be quick to let you know that there is a difference.
Beyond the hair, incense, and a few vegetarian meals Rastas and Hindus actually have very little to do with each other. The name of the film itself is a slight to Rastas who don’t say ‘dreadlocks’ but say ‘locks’ instead because of the negative connotation of the word ‘dread’. Rastafari put a great deal of significance in the power of the spoken word and how it is used.
I was curious to know how she was able to navigate these cultures and subcultures. Rastas can sometimes be a bit secretive about their views and ideas with outsiders. Her website describes ‘Dreadlock Story’ as “a unique exploration of a predominantly male topic through a female lens.” Ainouche stated during our interview that she had no trouble in these settings and that her only difficulty was when dealing with women. “Women are always the first to give opposition and to be suspicious. A man will tell you yes or no but a woman will sometimes want to know your purpose for doing something.’ Ainouche did not seem to notice that this interview was the same and here was another woman, wanting to know why she was so interested in making a film on subject that she expressed no cultural link, personal experience or passion for. How can one tell the real story of Rastafari without any input from the women? Rastafari is not a male-lead movement. The family unit is extremely important to Rastas. Follow a Rasta home and you will find his wife cooking ital and raising his children. There is no shortage of women following the Rastafarian faith.
I thanked Ainouche for her time and told her that I would be in touch. Although Ainouche doesn’t seem very passionate about Rastafari or Hinduism it may in fact be a nice film. I requested a preview of the film to give a more in depth review but never received a reply back. There is indeed a great deal of misconceptions about Rastas and perhaps this film will shed some light on that. The business of Rasta however is very lucrative and it seems that Ainouche has simply stumbled on a niche that has not yet been exploited.