As the island nation Jamaica celebrates 50 years of independence from British rule, Jamaican film director Storm Saulter’s “Better Mus’ Come” chronicles the bloody reign of terror that was once the backdrop for the political campaigns and struggle for power between the two parties; Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) and the Peoples National Party (PNP).
Loosely woven around the late 70’s reign of terror in West Kingston and closely mirroring the capture of the Jamaican druglord Christopher “Dudus” Coke whose extradition to the United States from Jamaica was world news for several days in May 2011, the script attempts to show the circumstances leading up to this epidemic. While movies of the same genre has portrayed their story for the shock value to create the sensationalism that moviegoers tend to seek, this movie shows the human frailties and the stark reality of waking everyday with no opportunities to earn an honest living.
Lead character, Ricky has a young son whose mother’s life was taken by the senseless violence that permeates the ghetto and he is left alone to take care of his son. You see tender moments with him and his son; taking him to school, gently reprimanding him from playing “shoot ‘em ups” and caring for him as he runs a high temperature. You see the pain when his son asks him for some water to drink and he goes to the pipe and there is none. He then walks to the river to catch water in a bucket to boil for drinking and bathing.
The actor, Sheldon Shepherd, reminisced about his own life coming from a poor family and living these same hardships. The young and very ruggedly handsome dub poet beamed in on Skype to share with his new fans his appreciation for the opportunity to be in the film. Skyping with him was Everaldo Cleary (Shortman) who never dreamed of being in film and was also struggling in Sandy Bay just like his character.
The acting is intense and the cinematography captures the grit of the ghetto. Storm describes his film as a history lesson and one that even he did not know prior to his own research but one that he wants to impart to this generation so they can understand the underlying root cause of the violence that many ascribe to Jamaica as much as its roots and culture image is painted by the reggae Music of the iconic Bob Marley.
Many of the residents of Sandy Bay, one of the main locations for the filming, were cast as extras and Saulter was pleased with the talent he discovered even amongst those who had no formal education or jobs. On the other hand, the female lead was the last to be cast, by pure chance. Storm observed Sky Nicole Grey walking by the office and invited her to read for the part. She was a natural fit. She, had however, been fantasizing about an entertainment career even as she performed skits for her family on Sundays after dinner since she was a little girl. She has already launched a modeling career on the international scene, her face has graced the covers of international magazines; including Essence, and even now she is fine-tuning a singing career.
The love story between Kemala and Ricky ignites as suddenly as the violence takes hold of the garrison that is clearly delineated by its narrow streets and twists and turns that makes it a one way in or out for anyone; live by the code or die trying to rise above it. Ricky is the natural leader amongst his friends and encourages them to stay away from the politicians’ offers of quick easy money but falls prey to the inevitable dominance when Shortman who goes out to seek work in the PNP camp and is turned away gets attacked and his face is slashed. Seeking revenge, the gang goes out to attack the community residents by throwing Molotov cocktails into their sheds and when they run out to escape the fire, shoots them down. Ricky gets shot and sends Kemala away with his son, but…
Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater was the location for the New York premier of “Better Mus’ Come” which was presented by Imagenation and The Film Society of Lincoln Center. The special screening was preceded by a rousing performance by Mr. Vegas of “Heads High” fame. His new album “Sweet Jamaica” pays tribute to the last 50 years of Jamaican music, from Ska to Dancehall. Courtney Panton of The Kingston Studio accompanied him on drums.
Dahved Levy of WBLS was on hand to introduce Mr. Vegas and Moikgantsi Kgama president and executive director of Imagenation facilitated the Q&Q with Storm Saulter, Sky Nicole Grey, Carl Williams (JLP Member of Parliament), Rod Ptahsen-Shabazz, Ph.D. (author of “Black to the Roots”) and Sherman Escofferey (LargeUp.com) following the screening. Roger Guenveur Smith also beamed in on Skype accompanied by his baby son whose hour had come for a bath and bed. Visual artist JaSon Auguste had several of his mixed media works on display in the lobby.