Director at ImageNation, Lisa Durden, who is herself a director and producer of Soul Food Junkies, addressed the small audience which included Jamaican actor, Jabari Gray currently gracing the small screen on the Investigative Discovery Channel in Scorned - Love kills.
Jamaica is a wonderful subject when it comes to cinematography, even the images of a gritty underbelly, the seedier side of Jamaica - converted to film evokes an overwhelming sense of nostalgia for those who hail from the Rock. The film opens with a panoramic scene that is definitely Caribbean and as the camera scans - definitely Jamaica. An ambulance comes into shot and the interior scenes show six or seven youths sitting, expectation, trepidation and excitement palpable on their faces. Perhaps the opening scene may not cause a flash of recognition, but for me I immediately knew what the opening scenes refer to - the Green Bay Massacre, an infamous time in Jamaica's troubled past.
The scene shifts and the story unfolds of a young "shotta" in Jamaica's ghetto, aligned to the opposition Jamaica Labor Party, we see scenes of warfare with rival gangs aligned to the ruling People's National Party. This is the year 1978 the height of the escalation of violence in retaliation to what is perceived as Michael Manley's push towards communism and his forging of links with Cuba. There is now no doubt that there were outside influences fanning the flame (something that is not really addressed in the film).
Ricky, played by Sheldon Shepherd and his love interest Kemala, portrayed by Nicole Sky Grey both give more than credible performances, despite the fact that neither has any prior film credits. They bring a sense of innocence in the midst of violence and circumstances beyond their control. This is the story of many of the youths who find themselves by nature of birth born in garrison communities. There's a lot of violence in this film, but then the film depicts a gory and bloody time in Jamaica's history. One wonders if the people of Jamaica seeing this movie would still be singing the mantra "Better Mus Come" - thirty plus years later - has anything really changed?
The cast consists of known and unknown faces, Volier "Maffie" Johnson plays the taxi-driver who helps Storm's son and girlfriend escape the garrison, veteran actors Roger Guenveur Smith as Michael Manley - Carl Bradshaw, as the Rasta elder who imparts words of wisdom to a troubled Storm grappling with the dilemma of putting aside the gun or going legitimate, delivers a classic line - "You cannot fight the righteous battle with weapons of war". Juxtapose that line with the scene portraying the cold blooded killing of the righteous Rasta teacher who steps in to defend the innocent woman returning from church who is almost executed by a rogue rampaging opposition gang.
The film ends with the same scene from the opening shot - the ambulance with the youths being conveyed somewhere. The movie then goes on to recreate the events of Green Bay; keeping alive the memory of this horrific incident hopefully stops it from happening again, but in present day Jamaica - regretfully I think not. In the words of the late great Delroy Wilson "I Been trying a long long time, still I can't make it. Everything I do seems to go wrong. Seems I have done something wrong why they trying to keep me down - who God bless no man curse, thank God I'm not the worst....Better Must Come"