A 'Yardman' at heart


A 'Yardman' at heart

Peter Webber finds solace in Jamaican music

Observer senior writer

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

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Shortly after landing in Jamaica in 2017, British film director Peter Webber got a taste of the idyllic image many foreigners have of the country. That introduction took place at singer Cedric Myton's home in Old Harbour, St Catherine.

“He was cooking some red snapper on his barbecue, he brought out some cold Red Stripe and rolled up a big spliff. I'm there talking to him over this meal and it was a perfect moment,” Webber recalled in a recent interview with the Jamaica Observer. “And I think that was the moment I fell in love with the idea of doing this project.”

'This project' is Inna de Yard: The Soul of Jamaica, Webber's documentary that had its world premiere last April-May at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. It has won rave reviews at other major film festivals in Sydney, the United Kingdom, France and South Korea.

'Inna de Yard' made its official Jamaican debut on February 19 at 'Reggae Films in The Park' at Emancipation Park.

It is built around interviews and the music of veteran artistes such as Myton, a member of The Congos; Kiddus I, Winston McAnuff, Ken Boothe and Judy Mowatt. Jah9 and Steve Newland represent reggae's new order.

The 52-year-old Webber is best- known for directing the Academy Award-nominated movie, Girl With A Pearl Earring, and the critically acclaimed Hannibal Rising. He was inspired to produce a reggae film after the French producer on his movie Pickpockets, told him about a group of older Jamaican artistes who toured Europe as Inna de Yard.

Having been a reggae fan since the late 1970s, Webber felt working on a project that focused on Jamaican music was long overdue.

“This was a film close to my heart. I made it because I'm such a fan of the music and then, having met the guys, I had such a strong, positive response to them — their humanity, their stories, their musicianship. I really wanted to make this film,” he said.

There was some personal grief along the way for Webber, who is from west London. Two days after he began filming in November 2017, his younger brother Jonathan died and he returned home to the UK for the funeral.

Back in Jamaica, Webber felt even more compelled to complete the documentary, which he dedicated to Jonathan.

“When I was shooting it I just wanted to dig deep down and understand more about these people, and capture something of their lives,” he said.

The director is amused at the inevitable comparison with Inna de Yard: The Soul of Jamaica with Buena Vista Social Club, the sensational 1999 documentary that unearthed long-forgotten musicians from Cuba's golden age of music in the 1940s.

“I can understand it but I think it [Buena Vista Social Club] was introducing a style of music, that while it was known in the Hispanic world, was not so well known in the Western world. Reggae had already conquered the world with Bob Marley,” said Webber.

Like their Cuban counterparts, members of Inna de Yard have attended several of the documentary's premieres, soaking up new-found adulation. They have also performed throughout Europe.

Inna de Yard: The Soul of Jamaica is scheduled to be shown at the Sofia International Film Festival in Bulgaria in March.

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