Photography: Sundance Institute.

Prize-winning documentary celebrates contributions by Native Americans to popular music.

Get ready to Rumble.

Kino Lorber, one of the leading U.S. distributors of independently produced motion pictures, has announced plans for a summer theatrical release of Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World, an acclaimed feature-length documentary about the role of Native Americans in contemporary music.

“This whole film happened,” says Stevie Salas, the Native American guitarist who served as executive producer, “because I was playing sold-out arenas and stadiums with Rod Stewart, and while on the road across America I started to wonder why there were no other Native Americans in the biz. Then I discovered there were indeed others who, for reasons unknown to me, people didn't know about.”

As I noted in my review for the showbiz trade paper Variety when Rumble had its world premiere last January at Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival, the movie “is structured more or less as a series of individual portraits of 10 significant artists, ranging from Delta blues great Charley Patton to iconic electric guitarist Jimi Hendrix (who was part Cherokee) to living legend Robbie Robertson. ... The title comes from ‘Rumble,’ the smash hit 1958 instrumental single by Link Wray (born in North Carolina to Shawnee parents) driven by innovative power chord riffs that would later influence Iggy Pop, Pete Townshend, and hosts of other rock, pop, and heavy metal masters. Taj Mahal, one of the film’s several on-camera interviewees, recalls that the song actually made him ‘levitate out of bed about four feet’ the first time he heard it on the radio. Indeed, ‘Rumble’ was banned from the airwaves in many U.S. markets because, as Stevie Van Zandt gleefully notes, the scary swagger it conveyed made it sound like ‘a theme song for juvenile delinquency.’

“After kicking off with a tribute to Wray and his legacy, [director Catherine] Bainbridge — whose credits include Reel Injun, a 2009 documentary critical of Native American stereotypes in Hollywood movies — continues with a neatly balanced mix of biographical sketches and historical context. Working with co-writer and co-director Alfonso Maiorana, she nimbly skips from place to place, period to period, taking time to focus on the symbiosis of Native and African-American musical traditions, shameful U.S. government campaigns to eradicate the cultures of indigenous people (Ghost Dancers were among those slaughtered during the Wounded Knee massacre of 1890) and the defiant political statements of artists such as Buffy Sainte-Marie and John Trudell — the late activist who appears frequently in Rumble, and to whom the documentary is dedicated.”

Rumble — which also features interviews with notables as diverse as Tony Bennett, Martin Scorsese, and Pat Vegas of the Native American rock group Redbone — will have its New York theatrical premiere July 26 prior to a national expansion during the summer, 2017, at New York’s Film Forum – before a national expansion during the summer. Here is a preview prepared for the documentary’s Sundance Festival debut.

Explore:EntertainmentFilmMusic