12 Popular Jamaican Films


The first Jamaica Film Festival is currently underway. The five-day event, which kicked off yesterday, July 7, aims to showcase the talents of the best and brightest in the Jamaican film industry and provide an avenue for local filmmakers to develop their skills. There will be various workshops and screenings over the course of the event, so click on the links to see what’s on for each day.

In honour of the event, here is a brief look at some of the popular movies that have come out of Jamaica over the past four decades.

  1. The Harder They Come (1972) – The quintessential Jamaican movie is very loosely based on the real life story of legendary outlaw Vincent ‘Ivanhoe’ Martin, better known as Rhyging. Reggae icon Jimmy Cliff plays Ivanhoe ‘Ivan’ Martin, a poor country boy who wants to become a successful reggae singer, but finds his dreams thwarted by corruption within the music business and eventually gets roped into the world of drugs and murder. The movie was directed by the late Perry Henzell and co-written by the late Trevor Rhone. The movie’s central song, also called The Harder They Come, was written by Cliff for the movie after the film’s name was changed from Hard Road To Travel.
  2. Smile Orange (1976) – Based on Trevor Rhone’s satirical play of the same name, the movie follows the day-to-day life of the smooth-talking Ringo (Carl Bradshaw), a hotel waiter who also happens to be a small-time con artist. It also takes a less-than-sunny look at the local tourism industry.
  3. Rockers (1978) – Originally meant to be a documentary, this film, which focuses on the music industry, tells the story of drummer Leroy ‘Horsemouth’ Wallace who starts up a record selling business. Tension arises when his bicycle is stolen by gangsters. The movie features a number of other musicians, including Burning Spear, Gregory Isaacs, Big Youth, Dillinger, and Jacob Miller. The movie was directed by Theodoros Bafaloukos.
  4. The Lunatic (1991) – Written by Anthony C Winkler and directed by English musician and director Laurence ‘Lol’ Creme, the movie tells the story of a village madman, Aloysious (Paul Campbell), who talks to inanimate objects, and his torrid affair with Inga (Julie T Wallace), a nymphomaniac German photographer.
  5. Dancehall Queen (1997) – Audrey Reid plays Marcia, a struggling single mom and street vendor who finds herself caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place: Larry (Carl Davis), a strongman who decides to pursue her teen daughter Tanya (Cherine Anderson), and Priest (Paul Campbell), a don who killed her friend and now is terrorizing her. Seeing it as her only way out, Marcia enters a dancehall queen competition, which gives her the chance to pit her enemies against each other.
  6. Third World Cop (1999) – Capone (Paul Campbell) is a loose cannon cop who returns to his home town of Kingston to join a group of officers fighting organised crime. He uncovers a gun smuggling operation, but also finds that members of his old crew are involved, and must choose between them and his job.
  7. Shottas (2002) – This cult favourite tells the story of two young men, Biggs (Ky-mani Marley) and Wayne (Spragga Benz), who grow up together in the inner city community of Waterhouse, Kingston. They get into a life of crime as children, and eventually migrate, where they continue their activities in Miami. They are soon deported and resume their criminal activities in Jamaica before somehow finding a way back into the US, where they confront the don who has usurped their throne.
  8. One Love (2003) – This romantic tale of forbidden love between a young Rasta musician and the gospel-singing daughter of a Pentecostal preacher was written by the late Trevor Rhone. The lovers, played by Ky-mani Marley and Cherine Anderson, meet when they both sign up for a music contest and sparks fly. They are forced to overcome her father’s disapproval, a corrupt producer and the other man vying for her heart, played by Idris Elba, who does not completely mangle the Jamaican accent.
  9. Glory To Gloriana (2006) – Through many trials and tribulations, Gloria Minto rises from humble country beginnings to become a successful businesswoman. The movie, starring Carol Campbell of Royal Palm Estate fame, is based on the autobiography of hotelier Eugennie Carroll Minto, who is also known as Gloria. She is the proprietor of Hotel Gloriana, located in Montego Bay.
  10. Better Mus Come (2010) – The critically acclaimed debut film by writer/director Storm Saulter created quite a sensation. Led by No Maddz frontman Sheldon Shepherd, the film is a love story unfolding amidst the violence and murder of the political gang culture of the 1970s. Better Mus Come won a number of awards, including Best Director and Best Actor at the 2012 American Black Film Festival.
  11. Ghett’a Life (2011) – Directed by Chris Browne (Third World Cop) and produced by world boxing champion Lennox Lewis, this film tells the story of Derrick (Kevoy Burton), a ghetto teenager, who dreams of being Jamaica’s next world boxing champion. However, politics and tribal violence threaten to derail his mission.
  12. Destiny (2014) – A welcome break from the gangster-themed films usually associated with the island, this Jamaican-Canadian romantic drama follows Lisa Pullen (Karian Sang) who journeys from Canada following the death of her parents to sell the family estate. Complications soon arise when she meets a musician (Chris Martin) under the watchful eye of her family. The movie, directed by Jeremy Whitakker and co-written with Paul O Beale, features appearances by a number of popular local entertainers.