Friday, July 1, 2011

Ghett'a Life: Punches Above it's Weight

As of this date, it's 28 days before the scheduled Jamaican opening of Ghett'a Life, and the only thing to offset the shame of such a long wait is that it will be worth it. At last Jamaicans have a cinematic depiction of our lives and our home that is neither "too touristy" nor too grimy with violence and poverty.

True, of violence and poverty there is more than enough, but this smart and zippy "Rocky: Jamaican Style" breathes some longed-for humanity into it's players, so it's ghetto settings are not an arena of hopelessness, but crucibles where creativity and compassion allow the best to overcome.

But enough philosophizing, movies still have to entertain, and in the hands of director Chris Browne, this one does handsomely. Young Derrick is seemingly going through the motions when the opportunity to become a boxer and represent his country "pops up" via the local gym. Of course, there are complications: the gym is located on the "wrong" side of the political divide that colours - quote literally - the tough, underdeveloped communities that politicos exploit for their personal ends, and even more so by the "dons" local enforcers spawned by, but now well beyond the control, of the political system. Derrick's dad is a local councilman with his own aspirations of moving up the official political hierarchy.

As lines get crossed, and allegiances shift, it's only Derrick's desire to excel and to see an end to the colour-coded, brutality-driven world which has touched him (yet not shaped him) that sees him through. Yes, the ending is happy, but not sappy, and a big part of the movie's appeal is the way it blends searing action and soaring human spirit.

Another big part of the appeal is the acting, which is uniformly relaxed, uncontrived and fed by experience of the Jamaaican condition. Special praise though, goes to Karen Robinson, a ghetto mother so heroically credible, she could be lifted from this setting and placed in just about any other film of the type anywhere. Kadeem Wilson, as Gully Rat, a cross-border rival turned ally, is also a standout, and Chris McFarlane, who's thus far never met an evil character he didn't jump to play, puts his trademark malevolence into the role of the don, the aptly named Sin.

Ghett'a Life is not merely a cause celebrate for Jamaican film fans and interests, it's a well-crafted urban drama that audiences of all stripes can enjoy - and deserve the opportunity to do.

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