Reaching for Zion (feature version)

The untold story of Rastas and Jews

Directed by Irene Angelico
Written by Maurie Alioff and Irene Angelico

Three decades after his death, Bob Marley is still a legendary superstar, whose roots reggae is embraced by baby boomers and young people everywhere. Even today, the Rastafari musician from the ghettos of Jamaica is seen by many as a modern-day prophet, whose lyrics are quoted like gospel by millions around the world.

In Reaching for Zion, Marley’s beautiful and charismatic granddaughter Donisha takes us on a quest to understand her grandfather’s extraordinary legacy. She has long been committed to his dream of One Love and his longing for Zion, a home where people can live in peace and harmony. But when she looks at the world around her, all she sees is injustice and suffering. Is Bob Marley’s legacy even possible? To find out Donisha investigates the roots and present-day struggles with poverty, racism and religious hatred. Along the way, Donisha learns more about the inspiration for Marley’s music and uncovers Rastafari’s intriguing and unlikely connection to Judaism.

Rastas and Jews share beliefs about Old Testament redemption, the mystical properties of hair, and symbols like the Star of David and Lion of Judah. Both also share a history of slavery and persecution. Through Donisha’s quest, we recall the slavery of the Hebrews in Egypt, the transport of African slaves to the Caribbean, the persecution of Rastafari in Jamaica and Jews in European and Arab lands. Rastas identify with the Israelites’ exile in Babylon. Both Rastas and Jews have long struggled to feel safe and at home.

With Donisha we also delve into the music that expresses both people’s suffering and joy. Marley, a musical prophet like King David, was deeply inspired by David’s psalms, He adapted the ancient Hebrew laments against Babylon into reggae protest and freedom lyrics, and brought reggae music beyond Jamaica to people on every continent in the world. Reaching for Zion is a musical journey featuring Bob Marley’s songs, as well as other reggae, Israeli, Ethiopian, Native American, and World Beat music.

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