Culture on the Big Screen: Five Caribbean Films You Should Watch
by Maia Muttoo Mar 11, 2019
The Caribbean is well known as a centre for creative production and artistic excellence.
But how familiar are you with the region’s contributions to world cinema?
Here are five Caribbean films you should watch.
The Harder They Come (Jamaica, 1972)
Image via Brooklyn Academy of Music
The Harder They Come is widely recognised as one of the top Caribbean films of all time. Written by Jamaican playwright Trevor Rhone and starring music legend Jimmy Cliff, the 1972 classic catapulted reggae to an international stage.
In the movie, Ivan Martin leaves rural Jamaica to pursue a music career in Kingston. When he is robbed on his first day in town, he finds work with a manipulative music producer. Forced into petty crime to pay the bills, his reputation in criminal circles begins to grow as his music rises on the charts.
Smile Orange (Jamaica, 1976)
Image via United Reggae
Based on the play by Trevor Rhone (who also directed the film), the political comedy Smile Orange satirised the Caribbean tourism industry and its relationship to the region’s colonial history.
The film focuses on the day to day life of waiter and con-man Ringo, who makes it his mission to “exploit the exploiters.”
Dancehall Queen (Jamaica, 1997)
Image via IFC Center
This high energy film starring Audrey Reid took viewers into the world of Jamaican dancehall culture and boasted a great soundtrack to boot.
Marcia, a Jamaican street vendor and single mother, decides to pursue the title of Dancehall Queen to improve her life and that of her daughter.
Moko Jumbie (Trinidad and Tobago, 2017)
Image via Toronto Caribbean
Trinidadian-American filmmaker Vashti Anderson’s first feature-length film premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival. With stunning shots of the Trinidadian landscape, and examinations of culture, class, and politics, this film was one of the best to come out of the Caribbean in 2017.
Asha returns to Trinidad from the UK and finds she is juggling questions of identity. When she meets and falls for fisherman Roger, she is forced to navigate the expectations of family, racial taboos and political unrest.
I am Not Your Negro (Haiti, 2016)
Image via PBS
While focusing largely on racial injustice in the United States of America, the standout documentary I am Not Your Negro was directed by Haitian filmmaker, Raoul Peck. Based on the work of James Baldwin, the film explores ongoing tensions in North America from the Civil Rights movement to Black Lives Matter.
These five films are only a small sample of the Caribbean’s cinematic productions. Get started with these, then you should also check out Brown Girl Begins, Rockers, Pressure, the Sweetest Mango and Better Mus’ Come.