Cinema of Jamaica

Despite Jamaica never having a very strong film industry, the island has produced notable films from the 1970s onwards. The most critically acclaimed film is The Harder They Come (1972), by Perry Henzell, which received international acclaim. The Jamaican government and various private citizens have tried to promote the creation of new films by the creation of certain agencies such as the Jamaican Film Commission, and film festivals such as the Reggae Film Festival. The Harder They Come sparked trends that were apparent in following films such as Dancehall Queen and One Love, both directed by Don Letts and Rick Elgood.

Cinema of Jamaica
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History of Film Production in JamaicaEdit

The Motion Picture (Encouragement) Act was passed in 1948. This act aimed to change the tax code so that the economic burden was reduced for state sanctioned production companies. The Jamaican Film Commission was created by the Jamaican government in 1984 to promote investment, export, and employment in the film industry in Jamaica.[1] The Jamaican Film Commission serves as the link between private interests and the government. It spends much of its time handling and processing requests from foreign film companies, as well as assisting local companies that usually produce smaller scale productions.[1] The Jamaican Film Commission markets Jamaica as a premier filming location to foreign companies and assists companies in finding investments in their film. The current Film Commissioner is Renee Robinson.[1] In 2014 the original Motion Picture (Encouragement) Act was repealed and replaced by the Omnibus Incentive Regime.[2]

In 2017, India expressed interest in helping Jamaican develop its film industry. On March 28th, High Commissioner to Jamaica from India, Shri Sevala Naik expressed favorability to the idea that India could offer assistance to Jamaica through scholarships and internships to drama schools in India.[3]

Local Film Production in JamaicaEdit

Notable FilmsEdit

Perry Henzel's The Harder They Come, is the most internationally recognized Jamaican film. The movie came along the wave of recognition that the general culture of Reggae music and Rastafari were receiving at the time. Despite the movie’s accolades however, it could not compare to many Hollywood blockbusters in terms of revenue and was part of the ongoing process of investors becoming increasingly resistant to funding Jamaican produced films. Finance is one of the largest barriers to the growth of the industry as it is relatively expensive to produce a film and investors have shied away from funding. In the past however there was more support to produce films in Jamaica by investors as The Harder They Come received international praise and the genre of reggae and dancehall were beginning to be recognized throughout the world.[4]

Influence of The Harder They ComeEdit

The Harder They Come, directed by Perry Henzell is the most critically acclaimed piece of Jamaican cinema since its creation. Directors in Jamaica have since then emulated many of the aspects of The Harder They Come. The movies that succeeded The Harder They Come began a distinct culture in Jamaican Cinema based in realistic depictions of Jamaica as displayed by Perry Henzell. In The Harder They Come, music was implicitly linked to the plot as a singer was used as the main character and the plot was in part tied to the music industry. The majority of films that followed The Harder They Come continued this theme by either having music intertwined with their plot or have a singer as the protagonist. Examples can be seen in works such as Third World Cop, Rockers, and Dancehall Queen. The Harder They Come also began a trend in regard to how Jamaican cinema approaches Christianity and Rastafari. Movies following The Harder They Come continued to treat Christianity as a negative force and exalt Rastafari. Movies which are prominent examples of this are One Love and Countryman. Both movies are laudatory and deferential to Rastafari while not presenting any counterargument or faults in the religion. In Cinema after The Harder They Come, which set its plot in Trench Town, there was a focus on creating movies in urban settings. However there are movies which break this trend as they are sometimes are set in the countryside.[6]

Foreign film Productions in JamaicaEdit

Despite the small size of the film industry, Jamaica has been home to a host many films of historical significance. One being the first Black American production to be filmed on site, The Devil’s Daughter (1939). These foreign productions have been a source of much capital for the island nation with the movie "Club Paradise" bringing in 53 million dollars to the country. Jamaica has become a premier filming location due to its proximity to Florida and the highly valued landscape.

Notable filmsEdit

Currently there are numerous difficulties with attracting people to the island to film. There is some criticism of the government for not implementing tax friendly policies for foreign companies. For American production companies, the lack of tax incentives compared to other places around the Caribbean and the world pushes these companies to other areas around the world.[7]

Film Festivals in JamaicaEdit

Reggae Film FestivalEdit

Reminiscing on the success of The Harder They Come, the Reggae Film Festival was started in 2008 in Emancipation Park, New Kingston, and seeks to encourage the same success by hosting a film festival annually. People from Jamaica and other countries such as Spain, Germany, the U.S, and Canada bring their films to the festival which lasts for three days. On the last day six people with notable productions are inducted as the first executive directors of a Jamaica film. The current director is Barbara Blake Hannah, who is also the current executive director of the Jamaican film industry.[8]

Flashpoint Film FestivalEdit

Seeking to encourage the creation of new films after movies, Paul Bucknor, Greer Ann, and Bertam Sam created the Flashpoint Film Festival in 2004. The Flashpoint Film Festival started in The Caves, a hotel located in Negril, Jamaica. The festival allows for directors to come together and display their films for the locals. As the advent of digital cameras drastically reduce the cost of creating a film, the aim of the film festival is to help develop a film industry within the caribbean by uniting filmmakers old and new with an international audience.[9]

In 2008, the Flashpoint Film Festival was moved to Port Royal in hopes of attracting residents from Kingston to festival.[10]

In 2008, the notable film Better Mus Come premiered during the Festival.[11]


  1. ^ a b c "Film Jamaica". Retrieved 21 April 2017.
  2. ^ Stiebel, Danielle. "Hop on the omnibus for 2014 – Business". Jamaica Observer.
  3. ^ "CARIBBEAN: India to help Jamaica develop film industry". St. Lucia News Online. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  4. ^ Campbell, Howards. "CINEMA-JAMAICA: Gloomy Future for Jamaican Movies". Inter Press Service News Agency. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  5. ^ Staff, A. B. S. (16 December 2013). "Top 9 Jamaican Movies of All Times". Atlanta Black Star.
  6. ^ CECCATO, SABRINA (2015-12-07). "Cinema in Jamaica - The Legacy of The Harder They Come - Imaginations". Imaginations. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
  7. ^ Blackford, Richard. "Jamaica's film industry – 100 years on and we are still gasping for breath – Columns". Jamaica Observer.
  8. ^ "About Us | Jamaica International Reggae Film Festival". Archived from the original on 2017-04-22. Retrieved 2017-05-01.
  9. ^ "Cultures-Jamaica: Flashpoint Film Festival". SPLA : Portal to cultural diversity SPLA : Portal to cultural diversity Cultures-Jamaica. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  10. ^ "Flashpoint Film Festival". The University of West Indies. Retrieved 28 April 2017.[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ "Flashpoint Film Festival". The University of West Indies. Retrieved 28 April 2017.[permanent dead link]