Revisiting seminal C’bean film The Harder They Come (Jamaica)

Yuh caan drop me ah Kingston my yute? Mi waan go buy two beef patty.
Yuh caan drop me ah Kingston my yute? Mi waan go buy two beef patty. Translation – Can you drop me to Kingston my friend? I would like to purchase two beef patties (a flaky savoury pastry made like a turnover)

For today’s edition of Back in Times Thursday (BITT) we go back, way back, back into time. Specifically back to 1972 and the release of Jamaican crime film The Harder They Come. The iconic movie, a huge hit and still beloved it its home country and recognised internationally as well, has been described as “possibly the most influential of Jamaican films and one of the most important films from the Caribbean”.

The film was directed by Perry Henzell, co-written by Jamaican writer and playwright Trevor Rhone and starred Jamaican reggae singer and musician Jimmy Cliff. The reggae soundtrack of the film and its superbly catchy title song drives the movie throughout.

The Harder They Come tells the story of Ivanhoe “Ivan” Martin (Cliff), a poor unemployed Jamaican who leaves his rural home to live with his poor grandmother in the Jamaican capital of Kingston. In the film Martin and a friend watch 1966 spaghetti western Django, the film Quentin Tarantino paid homage to with 2012’s Django Unchained.

Martin starts running errands for a record producer and performs “The Harder They Come” for him but the producer rips him off and stymies his dream of becoming a big star. This leads Martin into dealing marijuana and eventually a life of crime as a flashy gangster. And, like all great movie criminals, he goes out in a blaze of glory. The film shows how a lust for fame and glory can turn a good man into a monster.

I remember watching the film years ago and enjoying its grittiness, style and Cliff’s wonderful and charismatic performance. The film uses authentic Jamaican patois (so subtitles may be necessary) and is authentic 1970s Jamaica through and through. It is a milestone of that country’s film industry in particular and the Caribbean film industry (“Cariwood”) which has the potential to take the world by storm.

So have you seen The Harder They Come? What did you think of it? Feel free to comment below. And for more nostalgia bomb movie posts you can subscribe via e-mail or follow me

Julien got your back like a chiropractor. l8rs


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