Jamaican Cinema Film: The Harder They Come

Source: How The Harder They Come created Jamaican cinema


Reggae authority Klive Walker revisits the genesis of the island’s legendary first feature film


Jimmy Cliff in a scene from The Harder They Come
Jimmy Cliff in a scene from The Harder They Come


Jamaican Cinema celebrates with its first full feature film, The Harder They Come.

I’m in the middle of an ocean of people, converging as one on the side entrance of Carib Theatre in Kingston, Jamaica. It’s Monday evening, June 5, 1972, and this cinema I’m slowly pushing toward is hosting the first public screening of The Harder They Come. Somehow the pressure of the push and crush forces open the theatre’s side door. We pour in. The cinema’s 1,500 seats are filled in an instant. Very few of us, if any, have paid—maybe some planned it that way because they can’t afford it. Others, like myself, were prepared to meet the cost.

There’s way more people outside the theatre than in it. What unites all of us, both inside and outside the Carib, is the fear that we won’t witness the initial screening of the first Jamaican feature film — and more, that we won’t be able to see ourselves on the silver screen for the first time. We know that the people who populate The Harder They Come are African-Jamaicans: grassroots sufferers, strivers, the middle class, Rastafari, all of them mirroring the very audience seated in the theatre.

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