Reggae on Film season arrives at BFI Southbank in August – Up News Info
A highlight of the season will be BFI Distribution’s 50th anniversary re-release of classic crime drama THE HARDER THEY COME (Perry Henzell, 1972), in select UK cinemas and on BFI Player from August 5. Jimmy Cliff brings a jaw-dropping soundtrack and charisma galore to a film that needs no introduction to anyone with the slightest interest in reggae or Jamaican culture. Besides its credentials as an explosive action thriller with a killer soundtrack, it is universally credited with introducing reggae and the roots movement to the world as a serious cultural proposition. Perry Henzell’s unfiltered portrait of the Jamaican music industry, the emerging Rasta faith and the way so many Jamaicans lived, both in town and country, redefined a genre of music, giving it context and a weight. Five decades later, that excitement and sense of discovery remains intact. The film will be shown for an extended period at BFI Southbank during the season and a screening on August 5 will be presented by season curator Lloyd Bradley. Henzell’s only directorial feature NO PLACE LIKE HOME: REDUX (2006) will also screen during the season and will be available on BFI Player. In this one, the star of an American shampoo commercial disappears while filming in Jamaica; the commercial’s producer sets out to track her down with the help of a charming local fixer, which leads to an unlikely romance. It’s part love story and part love letter to the island’s natural beauty, featuring an iconic cast of Susan O’Meara, Carl Bradshaw, Countryman and Grace Jones.
Menelik Shabazz’s pioneering film BURNING AN ILLUSION (1981), recently remastered by the BFI in 2K, will also be shown on extended broadcast and on BFI Player from August 19. Vividly capturing the times and struggles of the black community in 1980s London, the film is a powerful coming-of-age story, loved by a generation when it was originally released. BURNING AN ILLUSION follows the young and idealistic Pat (in an award-winning performance by Cassie McFarlane), who falls in love with the troubled Del (Victor Romero Evans), with their romance set against a backdrop of violent police oppression and struggles for rights. civics. The film is also a powerful reminder of the richness of Reggae music, dear to the late director – a musical culture in which women played a central role, as evidenced by the iconic Janet Kay, who also stars in the film. BURNING AN ILLUSION will also be released on BFI Blu-ray by the BFI on September 5th.
Also screened will be BOB MARLEY: THE CREATION OF A LEGEND (2011), a riveting documentary consisting mostly of stills and footage shot before the Wailers had any taste of success. Director Esther Anderson, who will take part in a Q&A after the August 30 screening alongside co-director Gian Godoy, was given intimate access to Marley and his entourage, allowing her to observe and discuss their approach to their music. There will also be a special screening of BEING BLACKER (2018) followed by a Q&A with director Molly Dineen, eponymous Brixton-based music producer Blacker Dread and musician Naptali on August 9. This intimate documentary feature tells the story of the famous Jamaican-born reggae record store owner, music producer, businessman, father, son and pillar of the Blacker Dread community. As the story unfolds, he reflects on the issues that plagued his last 40 years in the UK: inequality, poverty, crime and racism, and why he sacked his youngest child at school in Jamaica. BEING BLACKER is featured on a new 2-disc BFI DVD set alongside the first ever release of Dineen’s 1981 film SOUND BUSINESS, about sound system culture; THE MOLLY DINEEN COLLECTION: VOLUME 4 will be released on August 8th.
There will also be an event dedicated to exploring dancehall culture on August 6, which will include a screening of BRUK OUT (2017) by Cori Wapnowska, which follows Dancehall Queens from around the world as they come to Kingston to be the best of the best. RIDDIM MOVES – A DANCEHALL DAY EVENT will be a unique day of reggae/dancehall culture presented through films, lectures, live performances, lectures, demonstrations and discussions. It will feature some of the UK’s leading dancehall pundits and performers including Ashdon “Crazy Legz” Smith, Shelaine Prince, DHK Shortman, Miss Rose, Stush and DJ Outzider, Natural Mystic, Nzinga Soundz and Dr “H “Patten. DANCEHALL QUEEN (Don Letts & Rick Elgood, 1997), set on Kingston’s dancehall stage, will also screen during the season. It’s the story of a single mother, who juggles day-to-day survival with raising a teenage daughter and the attentions of two very different men. Escape and eventual salvation lie in her double life as a humble street vendor by day and a wild dancehall celebrity by night.
A defining factor of reggae over the decades has been how, while the music is perpetually changing, the culture of the sound system remains constant; what started out as Jamaican adapted to new audiences and environments but always stayed true to itself. Nowhere is this more relevant than in the UK. REGGAE FUTURES on August 20 will celebrate the quintessentially British approach to contemporary reggae. With a selection of film clips (including JUNGLE FEVER, BBC, 1994), join author and season curator Lloyd Bradley, along with a panel of top black British musicians, to celebrate the best of this musical revolution and consider where she might go next.
On August 23, there will be a rare chance to see the documentary LION OF JUDAH, WAR IN ETHIOPIA, 1935-1936 (Lutz Becker, 1975), which features original footage from the Italo-Abyssinian War. Emperor Haile Selassie mobilized Ethiopian and Patriot troops, as well as world opinion, against Mussolini in a conflict that presaged World War II. It was also a key moment for black people around the world, galvanizing Pan-Africanism and fostering the development of the Rastafari movement. Cultural historian Professor Patrick Vernon, OBE, and guests will explore the impact of war and its relevance today in a post-screening discussion.
Other fascinating music documentaries screened during the season will include RUDEBOY: THE STORY OF TROJAN RECORDS (Nicolas Jack Davies, 2018), on the legendary British music label. Filmed in Jamaica and the UK, and blending contemporary interviews with rare archival footage, RUDEBOY tells the story of the early international development of reggae and how the music grew from the blues and shebeens dances of Jamaicans in Britain. Britain to forge a lasting relationship with the work of the country. youth of the class. INNA DE YARD (Peter Webber, 2019) follows a group of reggae veterans, including Cedric Myton, Ken Boothe, Judy Mowatt and Lloyd Parks, as they discuss life, music and philosophy. Each offers personal cultural stories that add richness and depth to this frank and open documentary. A third of the Wailin’ Wailers and a solo star in his own right, Peter Tosh was one of roots reggae’s most ferociously militant artists, whose story is told in STEPPIN’ RAZOR: RED X (Nicholas Campbell, 1992). Never afraid of confrontation, his frontal approach to the Jamaican government earned him several blows and convinced him that he was under constant surveillance. This documentary is based on the audio diaries he kept, until the day when armed men burst into his house and ended his life.
Theodoros Bafaloukos’ combination drama and documentary ROCKERS (1978) begins with drummer Leroy ‘Horsemouth’ Wallace buying a motorcycle so he can distribute records to PA systems. But the real joy of this film lies in its appeal to reggae stars (Burning Spear, Gregory Isaacs, Big Youth). Playing themselves in their own environment, these musicians made ROCKERS one of the most fascinating portraits of Jamaican roots reggae at its peak. Given the scale of Marcus Garvey’s importance to roots reggae and Rasta culture, there has been surprisingly little contemporary work on his remarkable life. AFRICAN REDEMPTION: THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF MARCUS GARVEY (2021) by Roy T Anderson uses archival photographs and documents, the activist’s writings, historical criticism and modern academic discussion to present a definitive image of Garvey that does not shy away from the controversies associated with it.
Two films by Jamaican filmmaker and visual artist Storm Saulter round out the season’s lineup. During the 1970s, Jamaica was plagued by political violence as each of the two major parties recruited street gangs to intimidate voters and to enforce and maintain garrison-like areas in the capital. Based on real events from these murderous campaigns, Saulter’s first film BETTER MUS’ COME (2010) takes us into street battles to explore the country’s politics on a personal level. In Saulter’s second feature SPRINTER (2018), Akeem Sharp (Dale Elliot) is Jamaica’s next sprinting sensation, who hopes his talent will take him to the United States, but home events seem bound to disrupt his plans. Forced to navigate his way through his unpredictable father, his older brother’s ambitions, and a host of street obstacles, Akeem finds training to be the least of his challenges.
This season is presented by African Odysseys, which turns 15 in 2022.