YARDIE: The Must-See Film To Watch

YARDIE was a project that was executed so beautifully. What a fantastic film adapted by Victor Headley’s book. I had the opportunity to see Idris Elba’s directorial debut of YARDIE at Clapham’s Picturehouse on Thursday 23rd August followed by a satellite Q&A.

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The movie is set in Kingston, Jamaica in the 1970’s and Hackney in the 1980’s. The talented and astonishing Black British actor Aml Ameen – who has also featured in Kidulthood, Maze Runner, The Butler, plays ‘D’ (Dennis) – a young Jamaican man who’s taken under the wings of crime Lord and music producer King Fox (played by Sheldon Shepherd).

D’s older brother Jerry Dread gets murdered right in front of him when he was a child, which caused D to turn to a life of crime and on-going revenge. Over a decade later, he is sent to London, where he tracks down his childhood love, old friends (and foes)… and the person responsible for his brother’s murder.

Why did D have to go to London? Anyone that mentioned his older brother in a bad light, D would attack with no remorse. King Fox got frustrated and very worried for D’s life – so he decides to send him to London to “do a job for him”. Things escalate when he faces his brother’s killer but he wants to change his life around… He is now caught in a dilemma where he has to choose his own path.

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King Fox in YARDIE – Played by Sheldon Shepherd

Shantol Jackson who plays Yvonne is a strong black woman who put the safety of her young daughter and a stable environment over D’s fast life of selling drugs and settling old scores. The storyline is a bitter pill to swallow for many in the black community as we are trying to address the current plight in knife crime and violence. Shantol’s character symbolises strength and her indelible will to set a precedence for her young daughter and partner, that crime is not the right methodology to make ends meet.

The film has extremely powerful connotations of Jamaican history, themes and traditions. Shantol Jackson, Stephen Graham and Aml Ameen felt obliged to do things right for the Jamaican community, by portraying their characters in an authentic way and to nail the accent.

We all are responsible for the choices that we make and YARDIE really focussed on the importance of decisions in this film.

Sometimes it takes gritty, triggering and risky movies like YARDIE to get the message across to younger and more targeted demographics. If it encourages an exodus of young audiences to see the film to implant seeds of ‘Choice’ then I personally believe that it’s worth it.

In the Q&A, Idris Elba reveals how Jamaican gangs agreed to ‘a three-day ceasefire’ to allow filming the very own YARDIE film.

‘When we scouting for the film, one of our security advisers said: “Look, coming to Kingston is one thing but to go to Rose Garden to look for possible locations is very dangerous, we wouldn’t advise it, let alone film it.” But we got permission and what happens is, the local community calls a cease-fire for three or four days while we shot our scenes –  and what is crazy is because Rose Garden is divided into divisions, we were casting extras from everywhere – so even though the storyline was “Tapper vs Spicer comes together”, within Rose Garden there were people that are usually involved [in opposing gangs] coming together, the irony was interesting.”‘

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Idris Elba with Aml Ameen

I would strongly recommend that you see the film and look beyond the violence and understand the cord message. The fact that Idris is of West African descent, exploring and directing themes based off Caribbean culture is a very risky move to make, but he executed everything so well. From the colours, music, themes and overall moral of the story – was very well written and directed.

Great directorial debut by Idris Elba, the location scene in Jamaica was reminiscent of my father’s childhood. It felt as if I related on a personal level. Such amazing work.

Powerful to end with a song sung so beautifully by Bob Marley’s grandson Skip Marley – Johnny Was.

YARDIE is out in cinemas from August 31st nationally. More info here.


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