Chris Salewicz explores the legacy of cult classic Jamaican film The Harder They Come.
In Part 1 of this two-part series, writer Chris Salewicz explores the cult film The Harder They Come and considers its legacy. He meets the film's stars and those who have been touched by this classic of modern cinema and its soundtrack.
Released in British cinemas in 1973, The Harder They Come is the rite of passage story of Ivan, a young singer trying to break into the music industry. Portrayed by the ever-smiling Jimmy Cliff, the film contains great music and unforgettable scenes of sun-bleached Jamaica. Yet there is a dark heart to the film. Despite his considerable vocal talents, Ivan goes astray and becomes tragically entwined in the criminal underworld.
For British cinema-goers it was their first insight into Kingston's seductive ghetto life, with a far-reaching influence on fashion and music. Before Bob Marley, it was The Harder They Come which launched reggae culture onto the world stage.
Contributors include Jimmy Cliff, discussing real-life gunman, Ryegin, who terrorised Kingston in 1948 and became the inspiration for the lead role. Chappy St Juste, cameraman on the film recalls shooting some memorable scenes, and Sally Henzell, widow of director Perry Henzell, talks about the film's premiere at Kingston's Carib cinema where 40,000 people tried to get in to the 1500 seater auditorium. Carl Bradshaw, who plays Jose, gives us a tour of the film's locations and author Matthew Parker contextualises Jamaica's history as a violent slave outpost "bathed in blood".
Producer: Simon Poole
A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4.