Artist and vinyl fanatic Chris Flanagan becomes haunted by a lost singer’s voice after discovering an incredible junk shop record. He sets off on a quest to find the singer, known as Shella Record, from Toronto, to Kingston Jamaica and all across America enlisting the help of psychics, private investigators and a ghost hunter on a surreal adventure. SHELLA RECORD ‒ A REGGAE MYSTERY is a meditation on the power of music and obsession, blurring fact and fiction through the use of Flanagan’s creative studio built models and fantastical recreations.
10 years ago, artist and vinyl fanatic Chris Flanagan unearthed a mysterious thrift store record that changed his whole life. Haunted by the voice of a woman listed only as 'Shella Record' he dropped everything and began a quest to find out who she was and what happened to her.
Beginning in Toronto's Reggae scene Chris hears only rumours and whispers until finally, after playing the song on local radio a mystery caller identifies her as 1960s Jamaican Jazz singer Sheila Rickards.
Despite warnings to drop the search, Chris sets off on a pilgrimage to Kingston Jamaica to try and find Sheila, hoping to get some clues from the Reggae godfather, producer Bunny 'Striker' Lee.
Chris follows rumours and red herrings across the island, exploring the city’s streets, burned down studios and sacred musical sites encountering legends of Reggae’s golden era. These musicians all remember the dynamic Sheila Rickards but no one has seen her since she recorded her only Reggae song and then vanished.
Chris returns to Toronto empty handed but is unable to let go of his obsession with the mystery singer. He soon travels to America following in her footsteps from New York to Los Angeles, seeking the help of a psychic, private investigators and a ghost hunters in an increasingly desperate search.
SHELLA RECORD - A REGGAE MYSTERY is a meditation on the power of music and obsession, blurring fact and fiction through the use of Chris’ creative studio built models and surreal recreations.
Chris' art practice forms the whimsical aesthetic of the film with the incorporation of models and silhouette animations as scenes are recreated and scenarios re- imagined with actors playing Sheila Rickards and other incidental characters.
There is also a wealth of archival footage of Bunny Lee, the musicians who played on the song and Sheila herself. The soundtrack is a set of some of the deepest and most powerful Jamaican dub and Reggae from the archives of the great Bunny Lee and the late King Tubby.
Hot Docs 2019 - Top 10 Audience Favourite
Doc NYC 2019
World Music Expo 2019 - Industry screening
Cinematheque Winnipeg presents "Gimme Some Truth" 2019
ReFrame Film Festival 2020
Kingston Jamaica - 10A West Kings House Rd - 2020
Victoria Film Festival 2020
Television Jamaica (TVJ) - 2020, 2021
CBC - documentary Channel - 2020-22
Sound Unseen festival - 2021
Melkweg cinema, Amsterdam - 2021
“the doc works like clue-seeking procedurals, ...but it more than holds your attention, introducing you to engaging characters ...and building to a more than satisfying finale.” – POV Review
About the filmmaker
Chris Flanagan is an installation artist and documentary filmmaker. His documentary films Shella Record - A Reggae Mystery and Ruff and Tuff - Stranger Cole's Toronto Roots premiered at Hot Docs in 2019 and 2018 respectively. He is currently developing a series of documentary shorts with collaborator Graeme Mathieson for the National Film Board of Canada.
As an artist he has exhibited in numerous artist-run and public galleries across Canada and Australia for more than 15 years. His art practice has also included composing original including a fabricated band and a film score for a small town. His compositions featured in Hannah Gadsby’s Oza three part series on Australian Art.
Chris is also a DJ, record collector, and runs Shella Records, a record label dedicated to reissuing incredible lost Canadian Reggae music in partnership with the original artists.