Jamaican film like our music is one avenue taken by producers to showcase aspects of the authentic Jamaican lifestyle. The films are usually packaged in such a way that when they are being watched, you just can’t help but to be captured by the undiluted Jamaican culture. Adding Jamaican music to the mix just creates an even more satisfying experience to Jamaicans and non Jamaican alike. Though the Jamaican film industry is not as developed where movies are produced rapidly, there is great potential for growth in this area.
Nigerian cinema or Nollywood as it is called, quickly grew into the second largest film industry in the world between the 1990s and 2000s. It is ranked behind India’s Bollywood which is the largest and at third place is the United State’s Hollywood.
Most of the movies produced here in Jamaica are no doubt highly entertaining. Could this possibly be a Jollywood in the making? In this Jollywood, Reggae and Dancehall music is a primary source for background music; artists have opportunity to secure acting roles, as well as other talented individuals emerging from local performing arts schools. However, this is nothing new. We have a number of Jamaican movies with many well known artists who took on the task of acting. In fact the 1972 movie “The Harder They Come” which gained international popularity was a catalyst for the musical career of Reggae veteran Jimmy Cliff. Not only did he play the starring role of “Ivan” a young man from the country that arrived in Kingston with the hope of making it in the recording business but failed and turned to a life of crime instead, he also provided the sound track for the movie. Jimmy Cliff had landed other acting roles after The Harder they Come . He appeared as the Jamaican musician, Ernest Reed, in the 1986 comedy Club Paradise and contributed several songs to the soundtrack, as well as the movie Marked for Death released in 1990, in which he performed as “John Crow” with the Jimmy Cliff Band.
Jimmy Cliff’s acting career is just an example of what we have the potential to achieve when we integrate the music industry with the film industry. Both industries can boost each other simultaneously, creating two powerful talent factories.
Local female artist Cherine Anderson, debued on screen in the 1997 film Dancehall Queen. This movie was another undiluted cultural production of the Jamaican dancehall in the 90’s. From the setting and the music to the fashion and the dancing, everything about this movie was a replica of dancehall in Jamaica. Another Jamaican film One Love starring Ky-Mani Marley and Cherine Anderson was a breath of fresh air with the combination of a romance story and Reggae music. Other Jamaican movies include Smile Orange, Glory to Gloriana, Shottas and Betta Mus Com.
Thus far, local movie producers have generated movies from the genres of action, romance and comedy. In a more developed local film industry other genres would have to be explored.
We can not however ignore the financial obstacles which tend to prevent us from moving forward with filming. Movie production is a costly venture and it can take years before the actual release of one movie. On the other hand, Nollywood in Nigeria did not bloom overnight as development is a process. Comparing what Jamaica has achieved thus far, with some investment of time and financing Jollywood can emerge as a force to be reckoned with.