Studio: African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (1 hr. 44 min.)
Plot: Two main political parties enlist the support of gangs to advance their political agenda in 1970s Jamaica.
Cast: Sheldon Shepherd, Nicole Sky Grey, Roger Guenveur Smith, Ricardo Orgill, Everaldo Creary
Rating: Not Rated
Bottom Line: ****
By Samantha Ofole-Prince
Blending an ingenious, imaginative approach to filmmaking with expertly choreographed action, “Better Mus’ Come” is a sobering coming of age drama set in Jamaica’s turbulent 1970s.
The movie centers on Ricky (Shepherd), a single father who is released from prison after months of incarceration as a suspected political agitator. A gang leader who has lost his will to fight for political principles he no longer believes in, he is hunted by the tragic death of his wife who he lost to gang warfare. After he meets Kemala (Nicole Grey), a book smart country girl, who lives in the opposing neighborhood, it sets off an inevitable cycle of violence.
A bold yet stylish approach and depiction of violence in Jamaica, for first time feature filmmaker Storm Saulter, making a film set in his native island was a necessity.
“We were trying to make a film that could tell a universal story and put the violent behavior in our society into context,” shares the filmmaker. “I wanted to show that our reputation for celebrating gangsterism is the result of an entrenched political culture that continues to keep the masses separated and oppressed,” adds Saulter, who not only serves as the movie’s director but the writer, editor and cinematographer.
In the film, Saulter, a political junkie, documents the Green Bay Massacre and the undeclared civil war that took place from the 1970’s into the early 80’s between street gangs who were recruited and armed by the political parties to fight for control of their communities.
“Ricky is a political bad man, but he is also a real person with wants, needs, motivations, and hobbies. He writes poetry, but keeps it to himself. He is the leader of his community and he is also a good father and he is just dealing with the environment and reacting to it. He represented personality traits that I have seen in a lot of leader types. Usually these guys are very charismatic, very intelligent and you can see why they have been chosen as leaders because they have leader qualities and not because they are really brutal.”
A cinematic journey with a difference, Saulter’s camera illuminates the daily tragedies and dangers faced by the character, with quick, tempered editing of visceral images that we won’t easily forget. Shot entirely in Jamaica, the movie features several intense scenes and is a beautifully shot character study as Ricky, a gangster with a heart, is a product, victim and observer of late 1970s Jamaica.
The action is expertly choreographed to document the way petty rivalries spiral out of control to plunge a neighborhood into murderous gang wars. Also starring Roger Guenveur Smith, Ricardo Orgill and Everaldo Creary, the performances, many from non-pros are terrific across the board.
“Ricky, the character Sheldon plays has those qualities of a leader and of a strong man,” continues Saulter. “I wanted to show a guy who has the stereotype of a violent Jamaican guy, but at the same time crush those stereotypes with him also being a very dedicated loving father and someone who is genuinely interested in his child’s development.”
Visually striking, Saulter’s use of voluptuous camera moves, close-ups and cinematography are impressive and he does a phenomenal job of piecing all of the plots and subplots together without missing a beat.
“Better Mus’ Come” centers on the actions of people who chose to engage in politics and violence and shows how that decision transforms a country. It’s a movie whose events will stay with you for a long time.
This was printed in the March 24, 2013 - April 6, 2013 Edition