At the premiere of documentary film “Bad Like Brooklyn Dancehall” last Thursday at the Tribeca Film Festival in Manhattan, the storied, cinema-centered event felt more like a concert as artists from the doc graced a showroom stage.

As attendees danced under the glow of blue and purple stage lights, artists such as Jamaican music star Shaggy performed his hit songs like “It Wasn’t Me.” At one point, amid the mix of dancehall music and influential music talent, someone in the crowd twirled a Jamaican flag as chest-thumping beats reverberated throughout the venue.

For the previous hour and a half, attendees had immersed themselves in a chronicle of dancehall music, conveyed by members of Brooklyn’s Jamaican community and beyond who were there in the 80s and the 90s when the genre took root in basement parties and passa passa events. Eventually, it would spread out across the radio airwaves.

Shaggy’s performance punctuated the documentary’s premiere, a surprise finish that brought the film’s characters and culture to life. Photo: André Beganski/Decrypt

Directed by Ben DiGiacomo and Dutty Vannier, the documentary was produced by A9NY Studio in association with Decentralized Pictures, the nonprofit co-founded by filmmaker Roman Coppola that leverages crypto tokens and a community voting model to support the cinematic arts. (Decentralized Pictures is a client of Decrypt Studios, a sister division of Decrypt.)

Rather than focus on just one artist, “Bad Like Brooklyn Dancehall” captures the stories of numerous musicians who helped pioneer the genre in the 1980s, including Jurt Ali, Screechy Dan, Future Fambo, and Red Fox. Even so, Shaggy’s presence lent some star power to the premiere.

Artists including Ricky Blaze, Babyface a.k.a Lionface, and Ding Dong (from left) appeared. Photo: André Beganski/Decrypt

"Bad Like Brooklyn Dancehall" also explores the evolution of the space beyond the early days. Several artists with Jamaican roots also featured in the documentary, such as Ricky Blaze, Babyface a.k.a Lionface, and Ding Dong, who helped carry on the legacy of dancehall music well into the 2000s.

Ben and Amy DiGiacomo (from left). Photo: André Beganski/Decrypt

The documentary represents the fourth film that co-director Ben DiGiacomo and producer Amy DiGiacomo have worked on together. Amy wrote and Ben directed “BTH: The Bradley Theodore Documentary,” a short that premiered in 2015.

Leo Matchett and Mike Musante (from left) of Decentralized Pictures. Photo: André Beganski/Decrypt

Leo Matchett, one of the film’s executive producers and Decentralized Pictures’ CEO, said the nonprofit came on after the film was shot to provide mentorship and funds for editing and color grading. Mike Musante, the nonprofit’s co-founder and VP of Production and Acquisitions, also appeared at the premiere.

Popular NFT artwork was displayed in partnership with OKX. Photo: André Beganski/Decrypt

Zooming out, Decentralized Pictures wasn’t the only blockchain-related group present at the Tribeca Film Festival. Cryptocurrency exchange OKX was the festival’s presenting sponsor, which explains why a selection of NFTs was on display, showcasing projects like the Bored Ape Yacht Club, Doodles, and Azuki.

"Bad Like Brooklyn Dancehall" premiered at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival. Photo: André Beganski/Decrypt

For those involved in the film’s production, taking a vibrant slice of New York’s cultural history and bringing it to the big screen at the Tribeca Film Festival was a celebratory moment at a hometown institution. And for audiences, “Bad Like Brooklyn Dancehall” is an homage to dancehall music that sheds genuine insight into how Jamaican culture went worldwide.

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