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Cinema treats locals to free The Harder They Come screening

SCREENING: (Left to right) Anthony Andrews, Katie Brandwood and Teanne Andrews

STORIES MAKE films. Perry Henzell’s film The Harder They Come, tells the story of Ivanhoe ‘Ivan’ Martin, played by reggae superstar Jimmy Cliff. It is the first ever Jamaican feature film and still one of the island’s most iconic for its portrayal of a Jamaica far removed from the one depicted in travel brochures. Not only that, but the film is loosely based on the exploits of real life Jamaican folk hero, Ivanhoe “Rhyging” Martin. With its thumping soundtrack the film helped to introduce the world to reggae.

Last Saturday, non-profit community cinema Screen 25 and We Are Parable collaborated to screen the 1972 film at a free one-night event, held at Harris Academy in South Norwood. Henzell’s film was selected, in part to pay homage to Jamaica which on August 6 celebrated 56 years of winning independence from British rule.

Film exhibitors and partners We Are Parable, headed by husband and wife duo Anthony and Teanne Andrews, regularly showcase films focusing on the black lens and the black experience.

Anthony said: “We were asked by Screen 25 to collaborate on this project. Given the change in parts of this borough and with the gentrification of neighbouring areas, we felt it was important to get involved with helping to deliver an event the community could enjoy without thinking too much about their bank balance.”

SINGALONG: Reggae Choir ahead of their performance

However, the free event couldn’t have happened without the backing of South Norwood Ward councillors Patsy Cummings, Jane Avis and Clive Fraser, Croydon Council Community Grants team and Film Hub London.

Katie Brandwood of Screen 25 and partners of Saturday’s screening, said: “Our aim is to bring people together through a shared love of film so they can feel a sense of belonging and meet other people. We have a very strong Jamaican population in South Norwood and, as a community cinema, we want to build an audience that reflects the demographic of the local area. With Jamaica independence and the 70th anniversary of Windrush, it felt like the perfect time and the perfect film to link both milestones.”

Prior to the outdoor screening, attendees were invited to drinks and were promised to be “transported” to a bustling Kingston street market. Natasha and Rohan Clarke, husband and wife owners of lifestyle brand Uptown Yardie didn’t disappoint with their downtown Jamaica installation. Rohan said: “We made sure this was a free event so that people in the community could enjoy the experience.” And they certainly did. Jerk Chicken served by Moorish Grill wafted through the air and Jamaican favourites such as rum, Sky Juice and Sorrel were much sought-after.

No Caribbean market would be complete without stalls and this was no different. The following companies showcased their products: Tafari had a stall selling natural wooden jewellery; another company Mamasia were offering natural skin care products, and the Teah Wilson Department Store displayed their semi-precious jewellery. Speaking of why he thought the event was important, denim master tailor Jahmale of Denim Recon London said: “Film is art and art helps introduce audiences to different people and cultures. Who knows, today’s screening might be the first time some people have seen 1972 Jamaican life.”

Just before the film began, young and old joined Reggae Choir to sing Jimmy Cliff’s hits from the film’s soundtrack. These included songs such as You Can Get It If You Really Want and Many Rivers To Cross.

For some, Saturday may well have been the first time they had seen The Harder They Come or sang its songs. However, thanks to the free screening from community cinema Screen 25 and We Are Parable, they were treated to an iconic work from Jamaican culture. Alas, after weeks of atypically scorching British summer weather, the heavens opened and rain fell. But it didn’t matter; nothing mattered. The audience’s spirits wouldn’t be dampened. For just for a few hours in South Norwood, Londoners could be seen lapping up the sunshine and party vibes of downtown Kingston.

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