Trench Town takes spotlight

Tuesday, September 18, 2012    

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TRENCH Town is equally recognised for its poverty and criminal elements, as for being the cradle of independent Jamaica's intuitive musical sound.

Mention Bob Marley, the community's most famous resident, and Trench Town springs to mind. Afterall, he popularised the inner-city community in songs including Trench Town Rock, Trench Town, No Woman No Cry, and Natty Dread.

The latest effort to cast some light on Trench Town comes from American Greg Pond.

Pond premiered his documentary Born In Trench Town in Jamaica last Thursday. The 90-minute documentary takes a a look inside the St Andrew community through the eyes of residents and persons who work within.

Shot with a single camera, utilising long sequences of ambient sounds and scenes which intermittently fade to black, Born in Trench Town is a great introduction to the history, anthropology, and sociology of the area.

While interesting interviews come from residents with their entertaining sound bites, it is architect Christopher Whyms-Stone who provides the historical perspective that adds depth to the piece.

Pond, in an interview with the Jamaica Observer, notes that the documentary began somewhat unexpectedly when he first came to Kingston with a friend, Dixon Myers, with the intention of helping reconstruct parts of community.

"I brought some video equipment but did not have the intention from the outset to make a feature-length documentary. I didn't realise, when I started, the scope and the significance of the stories I would find. What I gathered on my first trip were many personal accounts that comprise a very compelling and troubled history of the place."

Pond continues: "Many films have been made about the music and others have covered the politics gangs and violence but I felt more could and should be said about the place and its people."

Recalling the filming process, Pond says he did not encounter difficulties while filming.

"Trench Town and the rest of Kingston 12 has its problems. We all already largely know what they are and one has to be cautious and smart but more importantly respectful of the activities that others are doing no matter what that may be. As with any place, the majority of the people are decent and treat others with due kindness and respect."

The director hopes that his work will serve to right some of the misconceptions that exist about Trench Town and similar areas.

And what of the future?

Pond says if he were to pursue another project in Jamaica, it might be to expand the current documentary and perhaps go deeper into some issues raised in Born in Trench Town, such as some of the regions colour characters.

"I am interested in individuals such as Claudius Massop, former leader of Tivoli Gardens' Shower Posse. The truce Massop arranged with Bucky Marshall in 1978, his confrontation with Seaga, and other details of his life. There is also a police officer named Keith Gardener, known as Trinity, famous for his bold work combating gangs. These men were from adjacent neighbourhoods. Massop was born in Denham Town and Gardner was born in Trench Town. A look at of the course of each of their lives and those of others may also provide insight into understand the area as a whole," says Pond.

— Richard Johnson





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