Jamaica Gleaner / Two of the four Jamaican actors cast in Idris Elba’s directorial debut, will head to the Sundance Film Festival, set for January 18-28 in Park City, Utah, for the world premiere of the feature film, ‘Yardie.’
Based on the novel written by Jamaican Victor Headley and filmed on location between Jamaica and London in the summer of 2017, Yardie , will premiere at Sundance as one of the festival’s two headlining feature productions, and will contend among 11 other films for the World Cinema Dramatic Competition Grand Jury Prize.
Yardie , is also listed as one of the top 24 international films to look out for this year, according to The Hollywood Reporter , but they almost did not utilise any Jamaican talent.
“We’re very excited that it’s gonna be the first time a Jamaican film has been premiered at Sundance, which is fantastic.
This film is particularly exciting because not only was it filmed on Jamaican soil with Jamaican production crews and Jamaican talent, but it’s also telling a Jamaican story. I think that people haven’t really recognised the excitement of the Jamaican stories that we have; and we have a tonne of them,” JAMPRO president, Diane Edwards said.
Details of this Sundance mission were revealed at a pre-festival press briefing held at JAMPRO’s headquarters earlier this week. Lead actress Shantol Jackson, along with fellow cast-mates Everaldo Creary (No-Maddz) and young Antwayne Eccleston, were present at the briefing, to share their experience before Jackson and Creary make the trek to Park City, Utah. Also present was Film Commissioner Renee Robinson. Absent was the fourth cast member, Sheldon Shepherd.
“When the UK production team did their first scouting mission, they had not originally intended to cast the leads from Jamaica.
After conducting an initial casting call here however, that changed,” Robinson shared.
Jackson excitedly retold her casting experience with the veteran actor/novice director.
“I didn’t know that Idris was the director, or associated with the film. He called me late-late in the night, because he wanted to be the one to tell me I got the role. I screamed, of course! And then I had to apologise for screaming, because I could hear him coming back, ‘so, does that mean you want the role?'”
The young actress visited Los Angeles recently, where she met with several casting directors, “all of which were interested in the talent in Jamaica. I was able to say other than talent, we have cameramen, we have grip, we have technicians. If you come here, we can facilitate all of that. They were also interested in the training we have here. People are interested in what is here. We just need to make it available to them,” she said.
“In the past two years, we have seen more high-profile film productions returning to do business in Jamaica, and rediscovering the talent and professionalism that we deliver, both for on screen talent and behind the scenes production. ‘Yardie’, represents the revitalisation that is currently being experienced in the Jamaican film industry. Films of the scale and scope of Yardie are contributing significantly to jobs in the film industry and to the creation of opportunities for greater visibility of Jamaica on the world stage,” said Robinson.
In 2017, 13,468 submissions made to the festival, including 3,901 feature length films and 8,740 short films. In the same year, 71,638 patrons attended, generating approximately US$50 million and supporting up to 3,000 local jobs. This year, a total of 110 feature films were selected, representing 29 countries and 47 first-time filmmakers in competition, one of whom is Idris Elba.
“What I love about this film, it’s very human. It’s a gangster film, but it’s also a love storywhich you don’t see very often. I think people will appreciate how human it is,” Jackson explained. According to the actress, Yardie should take the protagonist and audience on a journey culminating in choosing between the satisfaction of vengeance and true family values.
“We don’t think enough people in Jamaica are behind the film industry, and JAMPRO is continuing its loving efforts to develop the industry and to get some more government support,” the president remarked. For the production of Yardie, JAMPRO assisted the production of Yardie with location scouting, liaising with industry associations and arranging permits for filming in particular areas.
“I love the fact that Idris chose Jamaican talent, and it’s a Jamaican story. It’s very authentic. So I’m sure Jamaicans will appreciate it. I’m grateful that I’m able to represent Jamaica, because it’s not just about me. It’s about all of us, because there’s so much talent here. We all just need the opportunity. We got the opportunity to make this film, and I’m sure it’s going to propel us to do other things,” Jackson said.
“Our creative product needs much wider and broader expression. JAMPRO is committed to lobbying the powers-that-be to develop more of a support mechanism for the film industry. What we want to see is more films in Jamaica, with Jamaican talent. We want to see an empowered industry association, implement a film licensing regime and to work on a local guide to filming, which is what the Film Commissioner is working on,” the president added.
Robinson shared that Jamaica is also the only Caribbean country to have a co-production treaty with the UK. “Although this production did not utilise the treaty, the investment partnership opportunities are very tangible for Jamaican companies that are interested in working with film projects originating from the UK and we have several coming down the pipeline,” she said.
“I’m definitely looking forward to the Jamaican premiere where we will all be able to attend, and experience that kind of energy that I’m sure will be massive,” Jackson said.