WAH DO DEM trailer from Ben Chace on Vimeo.



If the Mission District had a sister neighborhood it would probably be Brooklyn. So it seemed only fitting that San Francisco hipsters filled the Roxie Theatre to near capacity on Thursday night to watch Wah Do Dem, a movie about a Brooklyn hipster made by Brooklyn hipsters (the two directors sported matching Grizzly Adams beards with wardrobe straight from the Hipsters R Us catalog).

Wah Do Dem, which opened San Francisco’s twelfth Independent Film Festival is Jamaican patois for “what they do,” which is essentially a pidgin English way of saying, “what’s up with that guy?”

The movie introduces us to Brooklyn Max (played by Sean Sullivan), who gets dumped by Norah Jones (yup, that Norah Jones), in a fleeting appearance as his girlfriend, just days before they’re set to take off on a free cruise to Jamaica. What ensues is essentially a “worst-vacation-ever” tale of vacuous urban-dweller adrift in parts of Jamaica that most visitors don’t see.

Ben Chase, one of the directors of the movie, was inspired to make the film when he actually won tickets to a cruise. In the director’s notes, filmmaker Chase states that he had a “strange feeling” that he and his own girlfriend would be broken up before they ever set off on the cruise (Hmm, could that strange feeling be something like, “I’m totally gonna dump this chick before we ever take this cruise.”)

He and fellow director, Sam Fleischner, decide to use the tickets, bring along a very small crew, and in true indie-style, undertake some unauthorized filming on board to use as part of the movie.

After landing in Jamaica and wandering away from the designated tourist spots, Brooklyn Max meets some dubious characters, gets ripped off, smokes the requisite doobies, and listens to some cool music as well (in a feature appearance by the Congos).

He inches his way to Kingston after missing his ship in a trying odyssey that leads from one random mishap to another. This isn’t a light-hearted tale of discovery and renewal, though.

Although the filmmakers spoke about how much they love Jamaica during the Q&A after the film, I pretty much decided I will never go to Jamaica since the alternative to being a touristy douche who only hangs out at a packaged resorts seems to involve getting ripped off by the locals who are worn down by the grinding poverty of the island. Plus, I couldn’t understand one word the locals were saying (thank goodness for the subtitles).

Did Brooklyn Max take a crash course with Rosetta Stone in Patois before the trip, I wonder, cause he seemed to have no problem communicating.

The movie was filmed during, the Obama/McCain presidential election and there’s some pretty great footage of a bar going crazy when the election is called in Obama’s favor.

The moderator who facilitated the Q&A commented to the directors that she loved seeing Max, this white, privileged, hipster come to Jamaica and through this odyssey become a real person. I have no idea what the hell this lady was talking about. Max the Brooklyn hipster maintains his blank affect throughout the film right to the end–which seemed pretty honest to me. One bad vacation doesn’t turn a privileged hipster into Ghandi.

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  • Eve Batey

    MiHi, did anything about Jamaica’s reported huge problems with how the country treats gay folks come up at all in the film or the Q&A? I thought everyone was, like, boycotting Jamaica for that stuff, so I’m surprised to hear presumably (that’s a big presumption, I admit) progressive folks being all I LOVE JAMAICA!

  • bloomsm

    Wah Do Dem is an awesome song by Jamaican dub styler Eek-a-Mouse. Great to see Eek-a-Mouse make it to the Appeal. http://www.eeksperience.com/

  • Mihi Ahn

    There was no mention of Jamaica’s reputation for being very gay-unfriendly during the Q&A. One audience member asked the directors if they were ever scared while filming (which I think emphasizes how sketchy the movie made Jamaica appear.)

    The filmmakers went on to say that working on a movie was a great way to experience the country and meet the real people (not just resort employees and hustlers). I kept thinking, hooray for you, but for the rest of us who aren’t making a movie–Jamaica seems like a big fat bummer. The movie isn’t exactly a promotion piece for cruises either.