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Yardie comes home

By Richard Johnson
Observer senior reporter
johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Yardie, British actor Idris Elba's directorial debut, is currently making the rounds at cinemas in the United Kingdom. However, Jamaican audiences will have to wait to see the movie as it is understood that producers are yet to finalise an international distribution deal for the crime drama which was filmed in Jamaica and the UK.

Last Saturday, a select audience of primarily the Jamaican cast and crew viewed Yardie at a screening at Palace Cineplex in St Andrew.

Thunderous applause greeted the final scene. It grew louder once the credits began rolling as actors and members of the production staff saw their names on the screen.

The general consensus? This is a great project showcasing Jamaican culture.

Production manager for the local shoot, Natalie Thompson and actress Shantol Jackson had nothing but high praise for Elba and his drive to uphold the authenticity of the Jamaican experience.

“It is the fourth time I am watching and the first time with a Jamaican audience, so I was excited and nervous. I think we are the most critical audience, especially of ourselves, but I am very excited about the response and looking forward to it being released here. It (making the film) was an amazing experience... stepping out of our boundaries and experiencing working internationally was mind-blowing,” Jackson told the Jamaica Observer. “Idris is a great director and its because he's such a brilliant actor, so he understood the actor's process. He wanted it to be as authentic as possible and I really appreciated that. That's why he got Jamaican talent, he came and shot in Jamaica and he gave me the opportunity to say 'this is how we would say something' rather than how it was scripted, or our mannerisms, just because he wanted it to be so authentic.”

Thompson, who has worked on every major motion picture filmed in Jamaica over the past three decades, added her praise.

“This was Jamaican authentically. Not Jamaican in the mind of somebody. One thing about Idris is that he tried very, very hard to make it authentic,” she said. “That was what was important to him. He'd come up and ask if he was being true to Jamaica in 1973 or 1976. So he would ask people like me who can remember those years... 'How authentic is this?'”

“I remember six months before we started shooting, I got a phone call to ask about the Nine Night and what would happen, and would a Rastaman have a Nine Night. It was all about having authenticity and the truth. But that in itself is difficult to cross over to an audience who don't know our culture... but I think they achieved that bridge,” Thompson continued.

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Victor Headley, Yardie tells the story of a Jamaican boy who witnesses his brother's death and vows vengeance. The local area leader, sighting a possible war, sends the youngster to London to start a new life for himself, but old habits die hard.

The cast includes Jackson and fellow Jamaicans Everaldo Creary and Sheldon Shepherd.

British actor Aml Ameen, who plays the lead character Dennis, was born to Jamaican and Vincentian parents. His compatriot, Stephen Graham, portrays sound system operator and drug kingpin Rico.

Elba was unable to attend the screening but sent a video message thanking everyone for participation in the film.

“I had such an amazing time. You treated me like a king. You treated the film like it was your own and it is your own but you gave it so much power and respect to make the story that I wanted to make. Please enjoy Yardie, it's one of the best films that I've ever been a part of... Respect,” said Elba, who has starred in Avenger: Infinity Wars, Bastille Day and No Good Deeds.

Yardie premiered at the Sundance Music Festival in January to mixed reviews.