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The Harder They Come

Screening on Film
Directed by Perry Henzell.
With Jimmy Cliff, Janet Bartley, Carl Bradshaw .
Jamaica, 1973, 35mm, color, 103 min.

The creator of the first all-Jamaican-made feature film, native Perry Henzell, was white but spent an unconventional life exposing the vibrancy of Jamaican culture to the world. Remaining the most influential, most important Jamaican production to this day, The Harder They Come and its soundtrack album brought reggae and Rastafarian culture to a wide, international audience. Inciting near riots at theaters, this marked the first time Jamaicans had seen themselves on screen. With its improvisational, documentary feel and a deep Jamaican Patois spoken by a cast of non-actors, this was a culture, a style and a poverty unseen and unheard by any audience.The story of Ivanhoe Martin—Jimmy Cliff’s broke, aspiring singer—is loosely based on both the musician’s early biography and a legendary Jamaican outlaw whose anti-establishment exploits were much celebrated. Optimistic and charming, Ivan slides surprisingly easily into a life of crime—standing up to anyone who stands in his way, trying to change many oppressive, corrupt systems: law, religion, the music industry and the even the unfair economy of the drug trade.

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From the HFA Collection...