World Release at the Carib June 5, 8:00 p.m.
Jamaica’s first Full Length Motion Picture
in Wide Screen and Colour
So declared the Carib advertisement in the Daily Gleaner for Thursday, June 1, 1972:
Written by Perry Henzell and Trevor Rhone, and produced and directed by Perry Henzell, The Harder They Come became Jamaica’s most popular low-budget feature film, and now an iconic Jamaican product worldwide in the 38 years since its release.
The Harder They Come centres around the main character, Ivanhoe Martin, the typical Jamaican country-come-to-town, who goes to Kingston after the death of his grandmother to make a life for himself in the “big” City. Like many other young men back in the Studio Days of Reggae music, Ivan actually comes to Kingston to make it in the music industry.
After losing all his possessions at the bus depot in Downtown Kingston (anybody recognised the depot alongside Coronation Market?) to an all-too-friendly handcart man, played by Volier Johnson, he eventually locates his mother to tell her the bad news of her mother’s death.
Ivan is not exactly warmly welcomed by his mother. After taking the remaining funds from her mother’s estate he brought with him (“Is only dis leave?”), and learning his intention to stay in town, she makes it clear to him that he cannot live with her. The rest of their conversation goes like this:
Ivan: “I staying in town.”
Mama: “Den yuh t’ink town is easy? How yuh goin live.”
Ivan: “I could make a record. I can sing yuh know, Mama.”
Mama: “Yuh tek dis ting fuh joke.”
Ivan: “Well I can get a job den.”
Mama: “Wah kinda job yuh can get outside a turn criminal?”
Ivan: “Why yuh say a ting like dat?! Why yuh say a ting like dat bout me?”
Mama: “Don’t ask me any feisty question. Go back to country.”
His mother eventually gives him the name of a pastor who can help him out with a job, and watches him exit her tiny room and her life.
Thus begins Ivan’s life in Kingston. He is rejected by his mother, finds employment in a preacher’s house, is taken advantage of by the big music studio of the day, and eventually becomes the most-wanted man in Jamaica, hunted and eventually killed by the security forces. His death, like his baptism into Kingston life, was hard. As the title song by Jimmy Cliff, of the same name as the show, declares:
The harder they come, they harder they fall, one and all.
The Harder They Come – The Musical
The Harder They Come continues to be a perennial favourite for the majority of Jamaicans who either watched it for the first time at Carib back in 1972 or, like me, watched it as a youngster on JBC (Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation) now TVJ (Television Jamaica).
But the gritty reality and mass appeal of the show envisioned by Perry Henzell, who died on November 30, 2006, has also taken the fancy of the musical theatre industry. Now The Harder They Come has become a reggae musical. The Harder They Come musical began in 2006 and is now in its UK Summer 2010 tour.
So now let’s take a trip back to 1972 and the fictional Ivanhoe Martin’s life in Perry Henzell’s The Harder They Come:
Until next time…