After weeks of intense promotion in all media, including a guerilla marketing campaign that put a staged demonstration on the streets, BETTER MUS’ COME finally opened with a premiere in Kingston last week to reviews that were full of praise for Storm Saulter and his film.
Based on a notorious episode in Jamaican political history, the infamous Green Bay Massacre when the two political parties battled for power using ghetto warriors, the film heralds a new era in Jamaican film making that focuses on a new, younger generation of film makers who hold the future of the industry in their digital hands.
The film has startling parallells with today’s Jamaica where the island was caught up in a similar confrontation of political violence in the effort to capture alleged drug don ‘Dudus’ and extradite him to the US. As a result, the film serves as a reminder of how Jamaica’s political landscape was created in those volatile times, with tragic results today — three decades later.
In an interview with the Sunday OBSERVER, Saulter explained the story behind the making of the film: “The idea for ‘Better Mus’ Come’ came from the merger of a number of points. I was always interested in the Cold War and the whole geopolitics of that time. The effect that had on Jamaica and our relations with Cuba and the US was also interesting, then add to that the Green Bay Massacre,” Saulter explains. “When you put all those together with the heightening party politics of the time, it makes for a great story.”
Sheldon Shepherd, actor and performer in the Nomadz group, gives an impressive performance as ‘Ricky”, with another excellent young actor Everaldo Creary, and fashion model Nicole Grey receiving praise for their roles. Carl Bradshaw, without whom no Jamaican film can be made, has a cameo role, while US actor Roger Guenver Smith plays the role of the ‘Michael Manley’ politican with customary finesse.
As director, writer and co-producer of the film, Storm Saulter shows his professional film making skills and determination to deliver a first class film of international standards. The 27 year old director is a graduate of the Los Angeles Film School and apprenticed to such leading film makers as Little X. He has learned his craft well and perfected it by making several impressive small films, music videos and ads. ‘Better Mus’ Come’ began as a short film that Storm showcased at a film festival he started at his family’s hotel in Negril to show the work he, his brother and a group of equally young film makers are doing.
REFINING THE STORY
Two years later, a full length version of the film was shown, but Storm and producer Paul Bucknor (‘The Full Monty’) were not satisfied and went back to the editing room to refine the story and product. The finished film is professional and polished, with directing, photography and acting all blending into an entertaining whole.
“Like many of Jamaica’s classic films, Better Mus’ Come unearths a dark tale nestled deep within the ideological borders of zinc fencing. Not to say it should be dismissed or categorised as so. Instead, the plot navigates through a complex narrative. It questions what is good, what is evil and turns those questions on their head, creating a world in which a constant state of emergency drives one’s motivations.
The beauty of Better Mus’ Come is not in its storyline of romance or brotherhood, which at times carries its plot in zig-zagging motions. Rather, the film’s most poignant scenes are in the pensive moments with its main character who falters between what is right and what is necessary. Storm conveys these moments with visual dexterity, exercising his cinematographic mastery in ways that the Jamaican film industry hasn’t seen since the ’70s heyday of The Harder They Come.”
Popular entertainment blog TALLAWAH, wrote:
“A fully engrossing, well-acted and satisfying movie that represents a worthy new entry into the canon of Jamaican films that matter. A film local and international audiences will enjoy, Better Mus’ Come is, in essence, a powerful socio-political statement, an inspired and ambitious undertaking, that questions authority, entertains and provokes thought. I can’t wait to see it again.”
FRESH NEW DIRECTION
It’s a fresh new direction for Jamaican film which, despite the success of 40-year-old “The Harder They Come”, usually relies on jobs with the occasional US feature film that shoots in Jamaican locations, to call itself a ‘film industry’. The several young film makers springing up to make movies with their digital cameras and computers, will undoubtedly be pleased with the doors that ‘Better Mus’ Come’ must surely open for them. Storm could rely on his close ties with influential friends to ensure his ability to get all he needed to make the film.
Certainly the big budget that supported Saulter through 5 years of development, production and editing, as well as the advertising and promotion that have swamped the media for a month, is what has delivered the professional production of ‘Better Mus’ Come’. Undoubtedly, this is the kind of investment needed for Jamaica to produce films of this calibre that can cross the bridge from local cinemas to the Hollywood box office, and many projects are waiting in the wings.
My hope is that “Better Mus’ Come’ carries with it some of the talented ‘down-town’ film makers into the ‘uptown’ circles that can support their works and give Jamaica a chance to show that ‘Better’ has indeed come – not just to this film, but to the indigenous Jamaican film industry.