“Ghett’a Life” The Next Jamaican Classic – Now showing in Kingston Cinemas

Chris Browne’s Ghett’a Life is a drama with a powerful punch. The film premiered at the Carib 5 Cinema, Kingston recently to an appreciative crowd who eagerly welcomed the latest Jamaican film which some are touting as one of the best and the possible heir to the classic The Harder They Come.

The film is Browne’s sophomore feature and comes over a decade after his first film, the box-office hit Third World Cop. This time around, Browne has writer, producer and director credits. Justine Henzell co-produced and business mogul Tony Hart steps into the film business as executive producer.

Ghett’a Life stars newcomer Kevoy Burton as Derrick a young man who gets inspired to become a boxer and dreams of the chance to represent his country. Unfortunately, he lives in a politically divided community, and the gym exists beyond a border that to cross could mean his life. So to reach his dream, Derek must first risk it all and do battle against his father, the community don and the insidious political divide that tears at his community and threatens his closest relationships. Ghett’a Life is a bald and bold statement about the detrimental effects of partisan politics on the growth and development of the youth and highlights how the ideology of “party” before “country” stymies Jamaica’s potential. The film is set just before an election when both political parties are lining up their thugs to ensure victory through violence at the poles. In true Carib stylee, the premier’s audience expressed their opinion of the film as it progressed, laughing, cheering and commenting in response to the characters, and breaking out in appreciative applause at the end of the film.

The film has a solid, engaging story and the dramatic elements are rounded out by a touch of romance, which adds to the feel-good nature, without overwhelming the social importance of the film.

Ghett’a Life also benefits from a strong cast, which generally gave good performances. Burton delivered a convincing portrayal. Armed with an infectious smile, and believable determination, he makes a great hero and you quickly find yourself rooting for him and hoping he will succeed. Christopher McFarlane steps out boldly in his first major film role. McFarlane tackles the role of Don Sin and creates a near embodiment of evil. The support cast is particularly bouyed by Kadeem Wilson who plays Gully Rat. Wilson portrays a captivating young thug with the requisite “screwface”, low-hanging pants and rude-bwoi skank, that reminds all onlookers that he is the kind of man you should avoid on a dark street.

Odaine Clarke, as the aptly named Big Toe also does a commendable job. He makes a good sidekick and was actually given some of the coolest lines in the film and he delivered them well. Karen Robinson (Dawn) also delivered a noteworthy performance as a strong mother who is willing to face down the devil to protect her young. The film also featured Winston ‘Bello’ Bell, Carl Davis, Teddy Price, Lenford Salmon and Lisa Williams.

Ghett’a Life presents a realistic picture of the often violent nature of life in Jamaica’s garrison communities, and it does not shy away from gruesomeness. However, the violence is not excessive and at the end of the day, Ghett’a Life is a film of hope and is likely to have you walking away from the cinema feeling joyful and inspired. This idea was summed up by university lecturer Dr. Sonjah Stanley-Niaah who commented on her Facebook page, “I watched Ghett’a Life this evening and was first disappointed to see the same actors in roles that they usually play, but as I watched, I was really inspired to continue my fight for a country I love dearly.”

As we watch Derrick don his golden robe with One Blood stitched on the back, many of us may feel so moved and remember that whatever colour you choose to vote, we are all covered by black, gold and green.

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