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Ghett’a life in local debut


BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

Ghett’a life in local debut

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The award-winning Jamaican film Ghett’a Life made its debut Wednesday at Olympus Cinemas, joining the ranks of Hit For Six and the Hush series, Caribbean-made films.
Jamaican film director Chris Browne, also a scriptwriter, gives an insider’s view of life in the garrison communities of Kingston, which most Jamaicans and few visitors to the Land Of Wood And Water ever get to see.
His first full-length feature was Third World Cop (1999), which he wrote and directed for producer Carolyn Pfeiffer. This film was a huge success in Jamaica, and also in Toronto, Miami, New York and London which have a big Caribbean diaspora. Chris has also worked on other Hollywood films shot in Jamaica.
The film was ten years in the making and the idea for his story came when Browne went with some Peace Corps volunteers to watch a boxing match in a car park in the inner city between two men settling a score over a woman.
Browne secured all-Jamaican financing for this movie, which was estimated at about $1.2 million.
All the elements of life in the Kingston ghettos are present. The politician who perpetuates patronage and tribalism as a means of securing votes; the young men whose futures are stymied by the savagery of the environment; the mother who wants only the best for her son and the line that cannot be crossed.
The film’s hero Derrick, masterfully played by Kevoy Burton, in his first film, does cross the line, and in so doing discovers that a personal dream can be a powerful weapon against an unjust world.
He defies the wishes of his political activist father (Carl Davis) and local don Sin (Christopher McFarlane) to cross over to the other side to learn the art of boxing and have his shot at making the Jamaica national team to the Olympics.
His boxing coach and mentor Manuel (Winston Bell) teaches him far more than the power of a well timed straight jab. Derrick learns that Jamaica is bigger and more important than one community, and that his dreams are worth fighting for.
When asked why cast an unknown in the lead role, local consultant Debra Hughes, in charge of Press for the film, said that although this was Burton’s first feature film, he had acted in school stage productions in Jamaica and in television commercials.
“The casting director saw what she was looking for in him, and obviously age would have been a critical factor. And, from all reports, he has been brilliant,” she said Ghett’a Life won the prestigious Hartley-Merrill International Screen Writing Competition For Best Script at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006, even before the film was made; and was among the final nine of 150 films nominated by the Pan African Film Festival for best narrative feature film in Los Angeles last month. It topped the box office in Jamaica last year with a ten-week run.
A Jamaica Gleaner Honour Award recipient, Browne’s lesson to his fellow Jamaicans is that hope still exists where there is the courage to follow one’s dreams. Against the odds faced by so many Caribbean film-makers he has followed his dream, and we are the richer for it.
Browne has made several shorts, including So It Go (1985), Crossfire (1989), Star (1991), Country Of The One-Eye God (1992), Final Verdict (1993) and Entry Denied (1996). (NSH/PR)

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