As the box office begins to heat up with the regular summer fare of blockbusters, the all-Jamaican film Ghett’a Life will vie for box office domination against the superheroes and villains from Hollywood. And the film has sufficient clout to make fans sit up and take notice.
Ghett’a Life is written, directed and produced by Chris Browne, the director of Jamaica’s highest grossing film to date Third World Cop. Set against the tumultuous backdrop of Kingston’s inner-city, Ghett’a Life explores one boy’s attempt to achieve boxing glory, despite the political divide that threatens to tear his community and country apart. His journey takes him on a path that will force him to defy his family and his community and the result will either destroy him or bring his community together.
Browne’s impressive resume includes the award winning short films Entry Denied and Crossfire. The director explains that the idea to create the film was sparked when he visited the Sandy Park area several years ago and saw his first community based boxing match. He was immediately taken in by the gritty, underground nature of the scene and wanted to explore it further. He then set it against the most potent issue in Jamaica, the political tribalism that splashes blood stained green or orange lines of division across many communities.
“We don’t kill one another about God, like people do in some parts of the world,” says Browne. “But what we do kill one another over is politics.” The potency with which he managed to portray this, earned the film the 2006 Hartley-Merrill International Scriptwriting Prize.
Ghett’a Life combines both new and experienced talent among its all Jamaican cast and crew. The film is co-produced, on time and on budget, by Natalie Thompson and its impressive cast includes Carl Davis (Dancehall Queen, Almost Heaven, and Royal Palm Estate), Teddy Price (Small Island, Glory to Gloriana, and Royal Palm Estate), Winston ‘Bello’ Bell (Third World Cop, Royal Palm Estate), Karen Robinson (Liars and a Real Girl, Soul Food, Bad As I Wanna Be: The Dennis Rodman Story).
Ghett’a Life also brings a newcomer to the screen as Kevoy Burton, a student at Ardenne High tackles the lead role of Derek. Explaining that he was honoured to work with the experience cast and crew, Burton reveals that he was able to tap into his own experiences in playing this role. “I realized that the character was somebody I could relate to because I grew up in a politically divided community,” he said. So though his own family was not as intense on the issue, he understood the issues Derek has to face.
Actor Boy Awardee Christopher McFarlane turns his years of experience on the stage to portraying the gruesome Don Sin. “This is an opportunity for people to take me a lot more seriously when it comes on to character building,” he says. McFarlane notes that he hopes people will be able to see that his is not another “gun movie” but will instead be able to focus on its story of triumph and achievement.
“I think the movie is opportune for the time,” comments Davis. “It’s perfect for the time we’re in when many people considering politicians and how they contribute to the destruction of values and attitudes in the country.”
So, despite the familiarity of a film set in Jamaica’s ghettos, Ghett’a Life easily separates itself from previous films by its inclusion of sports but more importantly by its focus on triumph showing the ways in which Jamaicans overcome great odds and ‘get a life’.