Beat Magazine (Melbourne) 10.08.1988


American Rebel

State Film Theatre

What a curious piece of work this is, one that could certainly be perceived in many different ways. On one level I can see why this documentary has been condemned as propaganda yet on another level I couldn't help but enjoy the story of Dean Reed, a revolutionary artist, a man hailed as the "Johnny Cash of Communism - The Iron Curtain Cowboy". When director Will Roberts was in Moscow at Red Square in 1979, Reed was being mobbed by hundred of fans. When Roberts asked who it was his interpreter shrieked, "Who's Dean Reed? He's the most famous American in the world." Whe Roberts learnt a little more about the man he felt that he had to make a film about him. He eventually contacted him and the two collaborated on this documentary. And what makes this Reed character so interesting? Well a few things actually. He's an incredibly good looking, charismatic version of Elvis, Jimmy Dean and Peter Fonda all rolled into one, he's a folk rock hero who sings with a golden voice and delivers a golden message. He's a melodic socialist (not a communist) who's versions of "This Train Is Bound For Glory", "Tutti Frutti" and protest songs reached the Latin American workers where his audiences adored and related to him, insisting that, "he's a good guy, one of us, a worker."

Reed was a singer, (a post Elvis rock'n'roller) enjoying modest success in America before he became a politically active socialist. Dean's father tells us that, "before he went on tour to South America he was a normal American boy. It was the poverty and oppression he found during his travels that stirred and politicized him." Reed says, "I was neither a capitalist or blind, so I became a revolutionist." His love of politics and art interwove, his guitar became the instument that would reach out to the masses as would the films which he wrote, directed and starred in. Reed expressed his philosophy, his political doctrine as, "I have sat in prison cells in six countries because I felt taht the only value of being famous is that one has the responsibility to raise his or her voice to speak out against injustice." And that's just what this peace lovin', guitar totin, socialist guru was all about and, regardless of the sometimes precarious production values of this film, it's a truly compelling story of the man and his committment, it's a story which is made all the more interesting by virtue ot the fact that Reed died in mysterious circumstances not long after its completion.

Sue Ostler

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Letzte Änderung: 2007-06-11