On a fall night in 1987, three men forced their way into Peter Tosh's home in Kingston, Jamaica. Inside, they drew guns and forced their way upstairs where they confronted Tosh and some ... See full summary »
On a fall night in 1987, three men forced their way into Peter Tosh's home in Kingston, Jamaica. Inside, they drew guns and forced their way upstairs where they confronted Tosh and some friends. Tosh was beaten, pistol-whipped and then shot several times. Five others were shot before the gunmen fled. The victims were rushed to the hospital, but it was too late for Tosh. He died shortly after. Stepping Razor: Red X, the documentary, explores the life of the late Peter Tosh, reggae artist, Jamaican folk hero, prophet and radical political activist. Based on his personal taped diaries, the Red X tapes, the film reveals the inner thoughts of this volatile musician. His closest friends and associates talk about the many sides of Peter Tosh, explaining his fiery career and dramatic death. Archival interviews with Tosh and rare concert footage fill out this picture of the Rasta visionary. Written by
The Red X of the title refers to a series of autobiographical tapes that Peter Tosh was secretly compiling prior to his murder in 1987, which remained undiscovered for years afterwards. Tosh, who was increasingly suffering from paranoia, believed that any official documentation bearing his name was marked with a red X. See more »
When reggae star Peter Tosh was murdered in his Jamaican home in 1987, he left behind a legacy of not only his brilliant music, but also a legacy of his political struggles for equal rights and justice in Jamaica. The no less brilliant 1992 Canadian documentary, "Stepping Razor: Red X", evocatively captures the spirit of a man who was as passionate as he was controversial. Like the last thoughts of a dying man, the film zips through 104 minutes, recounting incident after incident, without ever losing hold of the viewer's attention. Director Nicholas Campbell seamlessly weaves together interviews, concert footage and surreal recreations of the murder, to bring Peter Tosh back from the dead for at least a short period of time.
The film begins with a recounting of the murder, and we see several friends of Tosh's theorizing about the motives and who they believe could be behind it. We then jump to interviews with Tosh's parents talking about when he was a kid. The film recounts Tosh's life, while side tracking to explore the various issue that Tosh was concerned with such as the legalization of marijuana, police brutality, and ghetto poverty. Throughout, we see eerie images of the murder. What makes the film even more eerie is that it is narrated by Tosh himself. Campbell used the actual "Red X" tapes (named after the fact that whenever Tosh saw his name on a government document , it was marked with a red X) that Tosh was working on from 1984 until his death. These tapes were basically a spoken word autobiography. Campbell compliments Tosh's voice over with rapid images of the Jamaican landscape. Some times the camera races through the streets of Kingston, and sometimes it races through Tosh's own house, letting us see what Tosh saw in his everyday life.
What makes "Stepping Razor: Red X" so special is that it works on many levels. It is a documentary on Peter Tosh's life, it is an investigation into his death, it is a concert film, it is a tribute to reggae music, is a celebration of freedom of expression. It is all these things, yet it never seems cluttered. The film is like a vivid dream: it's so short but it means so much. It's sad that this is one of only two films by Campbell as a director. He makes his living as an actor, currently starring as the title character in the somewhat cheesy CBC drama, "Da Vinci's Inquest". I guess he needs the money. I can't wait until he pockets enough to make another film.
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