The Harder They Come

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BBFC RatingThe Harder They Come

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GenreCrime, Drama, Music
Director(s)Perry Henzell
Writer(s)Perry Henzell, Trevor D. Rhone
Running Time1HR 42MINS
Extra InfoAll screenings will include subtitles
SeasonMain Programme

A film that needs no introduction to anyone with so much as the slightest interest in reggae or Jamaican culture, The Harder They Come celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Jimmy Cliff brings a knockout soundtrack and charisma aplenty to this classic crime drama.

Jimmy Cliff is Ivanhoe ‘Ivan’ Martin, a country boy who leaves home for Kingston, hoping to find fame and fortune. Trying but struggling to get any legitimate employment he follows his dream of becoming a singer. He cuts a record but immediately encounters the corruption and exploitation within the local music business. Turning to crime, Ivan is initially successful supporting himself and girlfriend Elsa (Janet Bartley) selling marijuana, but soon finds himself on the run from local drug gangs and police corruption.

The Harder They Come is universally credited with introducing reggae and the roots movement to the world as a serious cultural proposition. The soundtrack became an all-time classic album: the title track, recorded by Jimmy Cliff specifically for the film, sits alongside three of Cliff’s earlier songs, You Can Get It If You Really WantMany Rivers to Cross and Sitting in Limbo. Other featured artists include reggae/rocksteady legends Desmond Dekker, Toots and the Maytals and The Melodians.

Perry Henzell’s unfiltered portrait of Jamaica’s music industry, the emerging Rasta faith and how so many Jamaicans lived, both in the town and the country, redefined a genre of music, giving it context and weight. Five decades on, that excitement and sense of discovery remain undimmed.

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