The iconic picture of Jimmy Cliff, as Ivan, from the movie The Harder They Come.
THIS weekend, an art exhibition opens in Kingston to mark the 50th anniversary of The Harder They Come. Some millennials, as well as members of Generation Z, still have not seen the film.
The Harder They Come stars Jimmy Cliff as Ivan, a youth from rural Jamaica who moves to Kingston in search of his big break as a singer.
“I really believe that it’s so important that people, especially young people, get themselves familiar with Jamaican films, not only The Harder They Come, but so many others. Rarely do we hear people speak about these. Jamaican films really show us so much of our culture that has been watered-down or lost in translation over the years. These Jamaican films help us to learn so much about our country, our culture and where so many things that we enjoy come from,” 23-year-old founder and CEO of JB Designs Jhanielle Baker told the Jamaica Observer‘s splash.
The exhibition, which features 40 art pieces, will be open to the public from June 5 to August 28 between Fridays and Sundays from 10:00 am to 6:30 pm at 10A West King’s House Road. Film nights will be on Sundays at 6:30 pm.
Baker points out that there are no websites established dedicated to Jamaican films.
“Finding Jamaican films online is hard. We need a site that houses all of them. If there’s one already, they need to highlight and push it more in the media,” said the entrepreneur, who added that she has seen The Harder They Comeand grew up listening to Jimmy Cliff’s songs thanks to her father.
She is familiar with songs from the soundtrack including Cliff’s You Can Get it if You Really Want, Many Rivers to Cross, and The Harder They Come as well as by The Rivers of Babylon by The Melodians.
Meanwhile, 21-year-old Javíer Gordon, who is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in heritage studies at The University of the West Indies, Mona campus, believes The Harder They Come is a huge part of Jamaica’s film culture and deserves to be treated as such.
“Firstly, this film is one of those films with Jamaican authenticity with a full Jamaican cast and director that showed the world the harsh reality of exploitation and crime in Kingston in the 1970s. Secondly, the film introduced the world to Jamaican culture and gave reggae global recognition being promoted across Europe and the USA which changed Jamaica national representation. Finally, it shows that although there is struggle and obstacles along the way, you can work to achieve success. Just like how Ivan did in the film,” he told the observer.
Preacher, played by Basil Keane (left), reprimands Ivan (Jimmy Cliff) while Elsa (Janet Bartley) looks on in a scene from The Harder They Come.
Gordon, who holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Archeology, also shared his knowledge about the actors in the film, directed by the late Perry Henzell.
“I’m familiar with the late Volier Johnson who played the role of the handcart man who has been one of Jamaica’s leading theater personalities. Also, Lloyd Roberts aka Ras Daniel Heartman who is one of the most recognized artists in the Rastafarian movement with his drawings that gave a deep understanding of Rastafari. He played Pedro in the movie, who had some amazing artwork. These were some of the best artworks that started to spread around the world in the 70s and onwards, they are probably still used today. So, you can say the movie shed a little light on the Rastafarian movement too,” Gordon stated.
Meanwhile, 22-year-old monitoring and evaluation officer at The Ashe Company, Déquan Coombs, said he has never seen the film, but plans to because he has heard “good reviews”. In his opinion, not enough is being done to socialize youngsters about the film industry.
“Not much emphasis I would say is placed on Jamaican youth especially. I think it’s more wider advertised to people already in the cultural or film industry. I think even using the schools and ministry of education as a vehicle we would see more young people invested in Jamaican film culture,” Coombs told the observer.
he hailed You Can Get It If You Really Want and Sweet And Dandy by The Maytals as “classics” but admitted that he is not well-read on Jimmy Cliff.
“I know of Jimmy Cliff, but I am really only aware of him as an actor in the movie,” he said.
Twenty-four-year-old external auditor Kashielle Clarke also has never seen The Harder They Come because of “lack of interest.”
She has heard about the movie but has never been swayed to watch it.
“I had heard about it before. I’ve heard persons speak of it, but it’s not something that I’ve been interested in enough to look for to watch. I don’t even know what it’s about, to be honest. It’s not on my list of things to do. As I said, it’s not something that I am particularly interested in…I’m a very sci-fi (science fiction) type of person in terms of the content that I consume. If something is too close to reality, I generally am not that interested in it — whether it’s a book or TV show, or a movie. I’m generally not very interested in content that is too close to real life,” Clarke said.
Clarke believes it is imperative to not only shed more light on the local film industry, but invest in it.
Toots and the Maytals
“Yes, I do think it is important for children to learn more about our Jamaican films, just so that they’re aware that there are options out there. When I think about Jamaican films, I really do think low budget, not as good quality and I think a part of that may very well be how we are socialized as young Caribbean people in terms of what we think is, or what we can attribute to success. We don’t see our country as producing that kind of talent. We do the plays and the pantomimes and that’s a huge part of our culture. But, Hollywood-type movies, especially because we consume so much Hollywood-type content, I don’t think we see it as something Jamaicans can achieve,”
Pedro, played by Ras Daniel Heartman, and Ivan (Jimmy Cliff) in a scene shot in St Catherine.
The Harder They Come premiered at the Carib cinema in June 1972 and debuted that year in the United Kingdom. It made its American run the following year and was shown in New York City, New England and California. The flick introduced Jamaican pop culture to a rock and college audience.
Jimmy Cliff in The Harder They Come
A poster from the movie The Harder They Come (Photo: Courtesy of IMDb)
Jimmy Cliff (centre) as Ivan in a scene from the 1972 movie The Harder They Come.