Director Amazed at Success of ‘Harder They Come’


Jamaican filmmaker, Perry Henzell, has said he was “amazed” at the “phenomenal” success of the movie, ‘The Harder They Come’, based on the fact that the film was a “hard sell” when it was released in 1972.
Mr. Henzell was speaking with patrons, who attended the screening of a restored version of the movie at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in Canada on Thursday (Sept. 14), where he shared some of the problems he encountered in trying to market Jamaica’s first feature-length movie.
He said it was impossible to get a distributor, and when no international company would take the film, he personally took it to some 36 countries over six years to sell it.
“When the movie opened in Brixton, nobody came,” he recalled. “We printed 2,000 flyers and got runners to plaster them everywhere and the next night, the place was rammed.”
The movie was shown in a section of the 10-day Film Festival called ‘Dialogues: Talking with Pictures,’ where film directors were invited to “select and discuss films that have inspired them, had a significant impact on them, or were pivotal in the progression of their own careers”. The moderator was Jamaican-born dub poet and CBC-TV broadcaster, Clifton Joseph.
The restored version of ‘The Harder They Come’ also contains 20 new shots. The movie, which starred reggae icon Jimmy Cliff, also launched the acting career of Carl Bradshaw, who was a high school teacher at the time. He told the audience that no one realized how big the film would become as for many of the actors, it was just “a mackerel and banana” movie.
“What that means is we didn’t really see it as having any substance but it could feed you and keep you from starving. I had no idea I was launching my career,” said the award-winning actor and movie producer, who has appeared in almost every movie shot in Jamaica, including Third World Cop, Smile Orange, The Lunatic, Klash and Dancehall Queen.
Mr. Henzell’s second movie, ‘No Place Like Home’, was one of two Jamaican movies to premier at this year’s Toronto Film Festival, the other being ‘Made in Jamaica.’

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