'Countryman' - a Jamaican superhero - Short Essay and Poem by Ann-Margaret Lim
I discovered the 1983-released cult classic Countryman, directed by Dickie Jobson, produced by Chris Blackwell and Stephanie Sperry, pretty late in life. It was already in the 2000s and I was already way into adulthood, but indeed, Countryman, became for me a superhero - a Jamaican superhero.
When I saw the movie and saw how this Jamaican character, Countryman, lives as one with the elements and so incorporates the elements as his aide, I immediately became a fan - of the movie and of Countryman.
I've always loved Jamaican film, not the low budget, shoot em up gang man, bad man recent types, but those like The Harder They Come, Smile Orange, Rockers, Dance Hall Queen, Ghetta Life, etc.
There are so many scenes in Countryman that stay with you: when he runs all the way from the beach to the police station to pay bail for his friend and mentor; when at the beginning, lightning strikes and thunder claps and you feel its Countryman doing it; even the end, when his dead friend and mentor 'comes back to life' to scare Countryman's tormentor. All are memorable pieces in the Jamaican film puzzle.
An all-time favourite scene of mine and many who have seen the film is when Countryman prepares a sumptuous, mouth-watering meal for the two stranded in the rocky and hilly region beside Hellshire. He uses his cutlass and a stone-fire to "run a magnificent boat" that includes lobster with lime juice squeezed and drizzled on to it, roasted breadfruit with pieces of roasted fish on top, pear, also with pieces of roasted fish on top, soursop, and a humongous papau, washed down with coconut water. Some even see roasted yam in the scene.
Then there is that great, philosophical musical accompaniment Pass It On, sung by Bob Marley and the Wailers as the food is prepared, shared, and enjoyed.
There were many moments in that film that identified Countryman to me as a hero as we see his selflessness to strangers, his friends, and family constantly played out in small and large parts and scenes. Then the superhuman part comes with his identification with nature.
Imagine my great joy when I identified someone from the movie one day in 2014 while enjoying a Sunday at Hellshire with a fellow poet and our publisher at Peepal Tree Press. I asked him if Countryman was nearby, and he took me straight to his home, and that was where and when I met my Jamaican superhero.
As we spoke, I realised that Countryman, whose real name is Edwin Lothan, but who introduced himself to me as Countryman, is a true artistic soul and thus the real reason why he is my superhero. Countryman did another film after the one he's most known for. He even told me he wrote plays. He told me that he chose to live by the sea and with the elements as soon as he was able to choose. He loved nature and was a true artist.
I count meeting Countryman as one of the highlights of my life. The poem below may not yet do justice to the man, but it is where I am now in the paying of respects to this wonderful free and artistic spirit.
(In the memory of Edwin 'Countryman' Lothan May 26, 1946-September 18, 2016)
You's mi hero, Jamaican style.
You neva need anodda planet to come from
Or superhuman speed, X-ray vision.
Yu gi' yu body to de climate o' de island
As yu sey, jus' living yu life
so nuttin'' should harm yu.
Di win', di sea, even di eart' defen' you,
as yu sey.
Ah wrote it down,
Your explanation that feels like a discussion Jesus and the disciples would have before a sermon.
An' when I see yu an' reason wid yu
On the same Hellshire beach yu live on for so long
Ah pinch maself on di inside.
But, ah know is true, ah, talking wid yu
in de space outside yu house,
Zincroun' from de res' o' de beach
In 2014, after Chick V:
Mi superhero Countryman, in front mi.
But, now you dead
An mi hear de Wailers' Pass It On every time yu step cross mi min'
An mi si de big boat yu run
pon di TV screen
An mi memba yu, Countryman.
-Ann-Margaret Lim is a poet and has authored several poetry books her books, The Festival of Wild Orchid and Kingston Buttercup are available at Bookophilia, Hope Road, Bookland, Knutsford Boulevard and in selected pharmacies.