Movies

1997    'Dancehall Queen' (90 min. feature film).

 

Shot on location in Jamaica, it went on to be the longest running movie in Jamaica, breaking all box office records.

High-spirited, energetic and colorful, the new Jamaican film "Dancehall Queen" is the story of a humble street vendor who finds an unusual way of getting her family out of a harrowing, violence-ridden ghetto. Emotionally engaging, if also too broad and simplistic, this contempo fairy tale boasts such an enchanting lead performance by Audrey Reid that the limited theatrical distribution it is currently receiving in major cities seems deserved. An entertaining movie that offers a pulsating reggae soundtrack and scintillating sights of the vibrant island, pic should also travel the festival road as an all-too-prare sampling from Jamaica. Structure is that of a modern Cinderella story, except there is no Prince Charming. Marcia (Reid) is a dynamic, strong-willed woman, but bringing up her two daughters as a single mom, she can barely manage a meager living as a street vendor, and so has come to depend on the shabby figure of "Uncle" Larry (Carl Davis)……. Emanuel Levy VARIETY MAGAZINE

Trying to shoot a film in the middle of Kingston was like a cross between working in Notting Hill Carnival and a war zone, and I am surprised we managed to pull it off.

 

When I first saw The Harder They Come, there were certain lines of dialogue that really struck a chord with us, like “Who’s a bad man? One bad man come out an’ draw”, which became “samples” in our culture before we even knew what samples were. I wanted to do the same thing with Dancehall Queen. In the film there is a scene where the bad man Priest is threatening some potential witnesses, and he says, “Walk and live, talk and bomboclaat dead”. I wrote that as a sample and sure enough, it became one. Talking to young Jamaicans today, when you mention Dancehall Queen, “Walk and live…” is the first thing they’ll recite back to you.

 

In London Dancehall Queen was premiered in Brixton. Now that was a huge buzz as took place at the very cinema where I had seen ‘The Harder They Come back in the early seventies. In the 21st century film remains a global phenomena in reggae culture.

….Y’know I had always thought my first film would be London based but an Idea present by Chris Blackwell provided my first feature film opportunity - so, Jamaica it was. I spent three months rewriting the original script with Suzanne Fenn (it was co-directed by Rick Elgood). I am immensely proud of the film. For me, as a black British man of Jamaican ancestry, to get the thumbs up from the people of Jamaica was moving. When the film was shown in Jamaica there were riots in the street, in the same way there had been for The Harder They Come. The Cineplex was rammed, there were three people trying to fit in one seat. ‘Men In Black’ was showing at the same time, and Dancehall Queen did so well there that they had to take Men In Black off.

 

Dancehall Queen is The Harder They Come from a female perspective. It is about a girl called Marcia (Audrey Ried), a humble street vendor who through the world of dancehall escapes to a better life. Call it Cinderella without a Prince Charming coming to the rescue—Marcia created her own luck. I was drawn to this female driven story as from my point of view it was the women of Jamaica that were making all the social changes. All the guys just want to be Ivan from ‘The Harder They Come’.

2004   ‘One Love’ (90 min. feature co-directed with R. Elgood).

 

Premiered at Cannes this is a love story shot on location in Jamaica starring Bob’s son Ky-mani Marley. 

In 2003 Rick Elgood and I were approached to do a film called One Love, which is described as a “feel good” film. With Rick at the helm it looks fantastic and certainly make the most of its Jamaican location. On the set I was responsible for working with the cast, a mixture of first-timers and pros to get the best and most authentic results. It starred Ky-mani Marley, Idris Elba and Cherinne Anderson. She was cast for One Love because of her riveting performance (her first) in Dancehall Queen and because I remembered that she use to sing whilst waiting for her takes on set. A diamond in the rough. 

Bob Marley - One Love