Words by Jah Raver
The feature-length documentary tells the story of the “Birmingham Bomb Squad,” who emerged during the racial turbulence of 1970s Britain to become one of the world’s most celebrated and longest-running reggae bands. Director Yoni Gal, together with Oscar-nominated producer Mike Lerner, has spent the past several years unearthing hours of unseen archive material from friends, family and fans of the popular U.K. band.
Acclaimed Hollywood actor and social activist Danny Glover narrates the film, which features interviews with the likes of Rita Marley, The Simpsons creator Matt Groening, heavyweight boxing champ Lennox Lewis, Snoop Dogg, Alpha Blondy, Burning Spear, UB40, John Lydon of the Sex Pistols, Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Damian Marley, Ziggy Marley, Chris Blackwell, Linton Kwesi Johnson, actor C. Thomas Howell, Aswad, Billy Idol, The Specials, Michael Franti, Jason Mraz and Gwen Stefani.
This year marks four decades since Steel Pulse first performed in Handsworth, Birmingham, in 1975. According to the director, Dreadtown will be testament to how the band’s message has empowered people from across the globe to fight against oppression throughout the decades. The film features a rich mix of live performances, interviews and exclusive archive material to frame the issues of race and police/minority relations from 1970s Britain through to the present day in America. Resonance with those same issues today requires names, not explanation: Ferguson, Baltimore, and Sanford. The list continues, as does Steel Pulse’s mission to confront injustice and empower communities.
In an effort to wrap the film and get it to the fans in 2016, the producer have launched a crowd-funding campaign to raise funds to cover music licensing, post-production costs, merchandise, and other fees.
“Dreadtown has been a complete labor of love for everyone involved in the project,” Yoni Gal says. “We’ve asked all our friends and family to invest, and we’ve recently had support from the British Film Institute, who have recognized the importance of this documentary. But we still have a shortfall in the budget to cover costs. Importantly, we want to distribute Dreadtown independently and bring it straight to you. We feel strongly about not wanting to use commercial finance for this movie. We don’t want to compromise our message.”
With a fundraising goal of $40,000, fans have stepped up and contributed more than $9,000 in the first 19 days of the campaign. However, this is nowhere near the amount needed to guarantee the film’s release. You can contribute to the ‘Dreadtown’ crowd-funding campaign here.