The Harder they Come

The Harder they Come

classified 15

Era-Defining Soundtracks


Please note: This was screened in March 2020

Perry Henzell
Jimmy Cliff, Janet Bartley, Carl Bradshaw
103 mins, 1972, Jamaica
Primary language:

“I had a choice when I set out… to make a film for Jamaicans or for the rest of the world. I chose to make a film for Jamaica.”
– director Perry Henzell

A revolutionary and ground-breaking film about music and the underbelly of Jamaican life, Perry Henzell’s cult classic and influential reggae movie starring singer Jimmy Cliff is powered by one of the most infectious scores in cinema history.

Ivan (Cliff), a renegade songwriter from the boondocks of Jamaica, journeys to the big city looking for fame and fortune but only finds reality. Compelled to become an outlaw after a local music producer refuses to play his record, Ivan achieves such notoriety while on the run from the police that eventually the producer can’t resist airing his music after all.

Fizzing with violence and energy, and an astute take on the politics and the dog-eat-dog nature of the entertainment industry, on the film’s opening night in Kingston, Jamaica’s very first feature film provoked riots when thousands could not get into the sold-out screening. To look over the title credits is to discover why - a collection of musicians and producers whose combined resumes would pretty much cover everyone in the history of ska / rocksteady / reggae up to that point. Credited as the movie that gave reggae a foothold in the America, it defined an era for both Jamaican cinema and its celebrated music.