The Grand County Public Library and the Utah Film Center will be screening the award-winning documentary film “Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World” at Star Hall on Thursday, June 21, at 7 p.m.
Moab resident E.J. Gore, who recommended the documentary for inclusion in the library’s monthly film program, said the moment she heard the first note of the documentary she was hooked.
“I adore the music in this film,” Gore said, adding that the first note of the documentary is the unforgettable first note of rock guitarist Link Wray’s 1958 hit by the same name.
But equally as impressive, she said of the music, is the lesser-known history the film is centered around: the role of Native Americans in popular music history.
“Many artists and musical forms played a role in the creation of rock, but arguably no single piece of music was more influential than the 1958 instrumental “Rumble” by American Indian rock guitarist and singer and songwriter Link Wray,” reads a release about the film on the Utah Film Center’s website. “Rumble” explores how the Native American influence is an integral part of music history, despite attempts to ban and censor native culture in the United States.
Gore said she was fascinated by how much Native American music is woven into the music she knows and loves.
“A lot of the music I thought was black sourced was actually black and Native American sourced,” she said. “It was fascinating to learn about.”
The film brings to light the Native American roots in the musical genres of blues, jazz and rock, and reveals the Native American heritage of popular musicians Charley Patton, Mildred Bailey, Jimi Hendrix and Buffy Sainte-Marie.
Sainte-Marie was born in 1941, on the Piapot Plains Cree Nation Reserve near Craven, Saskatchewan. After being abandoned as an infant by her parents, she was adopted by a couple of Mi’kmaq descendants who lived in Massachusetts. A rising folk star in the 1960s, Sainte-Marie was eventually surprised by the United States government for her activism on behalf of Native American rights and protest songs, and some of her songs were banned from radio by the Johnson administration.
The stories of these iconic musicians are told by some of America’s greatest music legends who knew them, played music with them, and were inspired by them, including Buddy Guy, Quincy Jones, Tony Bennett, Iggy Pop, Steven Tyler and Stevie Van Zandt.
The documentary, directed by Catherine Bainbridge and co-directed by Alfonso Maiorana, first premiered at the January 2017 Sundance Film Festival where it won the Special Jury Prize for Masterful Storytelling.
The documentary went on to win several other awards that year, including the Hot Docs Audience Award and the Hot Docs Rogers Audience Award for Best Canadian Documentary at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival.
“It’s a brilliant documentary, and it would be so marvelous here,” Gore said. “We’re sitting in the desert in the Four Corners area among the reservations, and showing this film would be a way to not only enjoy the contributions of our brothers and sisters next door, but to honor the music of their culture.”
For more than five years, the Grand County Public Library has partnered with the Utah Film Center to bring movies and documentaries to Moab for a free screening to the public.
Jessie Magleby, the Grand County Public Library assistant who is in charge of the film program, said Gore approached her about the film last fall. After watching the trailers and reading reviews, she knew it was a good fit and contacted the Utah Film Center to start making plans to bring it to town.
“The library is always looking for ways to be welcoming to all of the members of our community, and it would be great to bring in a film that explores the artistic contributions of Native Americans to popular music culture,” she said, noting that Grand County has a strong Native American population.
Stories of Hendrix, Sainte-Marie told in documentary on iconic rock musicians
“A lot of the music I thought was Black sourced was actually Black and Native American sourced.”
When: Thursday, June 21 at 7 p.m.
Where: Star Hall, 159 E. Center St.