Wah Do Dem (2009), Jamaican patois for “what’s wrong with them,” is a 2009 film by directors Ben Chance and Sam Fleischner that chronicles the misfortunes of a naive Brooklyn musician named Max, played by Sean Bones. Max is all set to start out on a Caribbean cruise with his girlfriend (cameo by singer/songwriter Norah Jones) when she decides to informally break up with him, two days before they leave. He meets with his friends later to discuss the break-up only to find that they didn’t like his girlfriend in the first place. Still, he has an extra ticket and wants one of his friends to go along with him only to be jilted again, so he decides he’ll just try to enjoy the cruise on his own.
It’s depressing to watch as Max wanders about the cruise ship, and eats by himself. He’s out of place surrounded by the much older vacationers and one seemingly seedy stalker advances, causing Max to retreat into his cabin where he pretty much remains until the boat docks in the Jamaican port. While on shore, Max immediately decides to take a road less traveled in an effort to get away from the touristy aspect of the island and become exposed to the real Jamaica. Unfortunately for Max, his luck with women and frustratingly flaky friendships seem to have followed him to the island. Being culturally isolated only serves to increase Max’s misfortunes; he is robbed of his clothes, bag, and shoes and misses one bus too many. Although these painful events wreak emotional havoc for Max, his journey truly begins to take on a more philosophical aspect than he ever could have imagined.
Max’s misadventures aren’t what really make Wah Do Dem entertaining and worth watching. The film fantastically depicts the culturally rich aspects of Jamaica, the cities, the music, and most importantly, the good people of Jamaica. I truly admire that the directors took this offbeat approach to the film. Visually beautiful, it’s also easy to admire the “reggae-infused odyssey”–the music plays a tremendous supporting role here.
Los Angeles Film Festival (Winner Juror’s award), BFI London Film Festival, Vancouver Film Festival, Spokane International Film Festival (Winner, best picture), New Zealand Film Festival and The Reggae Film Festival in Jamaica.