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Perry Henzell’s personal Odyssey screened

Published:Wednesday | February 25, 2015 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
From left: Arthur Gorson, Justine Henzell, David Garonzik, and Steve James.
Director Arthur Gorson speaks ahead of the screening of ‘Perry Henzell: A Filmmaker’s Odyssey’ at the Louise Bennett Garden Theatre, Hope Road, on Monday evening.
From left: Wayne Jobson, Arthur Gorson (centre), and Justine Henzell.
Sally Henzell speaks at the screening of ‘Perry Henzell: A Filmmaker’s Odyssey’.

In half-hour, the documentary Perry Henzell: A Filmmaker's Odyssey traces Perry Henzell's quarter-century journey to his second feature film, No Place Like Home. The tale of serendipity and tenacity, determination and despair, debuted at the Louise Bennett Garden Theatre, Hope Road, St Andrew, on Monday night as part of Reggae Month's official activities.

And while Perry and David Garonzik, a committed dynamo that was the key to No Place Like Home being resuscitated from the forgotten vaults in which it had been canned, spoke from the big screen (and in Garonzik's case in the flesh as well), family members Justine and Sally spoke from the heart.

"Angels come into your life at different points and I am sitting with angels here," Justine Henzell said, indicating Garonzik, director Arthur Gorson and Wayne Jobson, who narrated the documentary. Referring to the difficulties her father faced, Justine said, "There is no excuse for me not to do the best I can."

Perry's vision

Perry's widow, Sally, said Perry envisioned a trilogy, which encompassed the urban and rural. The first installment, when the country boy comes to town, was the classic film Harder They Come. The second, the city lady and the country boy, was No Place Like Home. And the conclusion is a clash between the urban and rural in the novel Power Game.

Perry's son, Jason, was at the screening.

In introducing, A Filmmaker's Odyssey, Gorson expressed his pleasure in the documentary debuting in Jamaica. The lights went down and the tale of a man who said, "I was going against the tide" began. Henzell spoke about the organic way in which the script unfolded, with half scripted and the rest not.

"It developed organically and I guess that's why I ran out of money. People kept asking, 'Where is the script? Where is the script?'" Perry said.

stop and start process

The stop and start making of No Place Like Home continued for years. Then in 1981, Perry made a definitive move to see the process through - and the footage had disappeared.

Perry told himself to forget No Place Like Home otherwise he might get sick and die.

A Filmmaker's Odyssey continues with the irrepressible Garonzik's entry into the tale, him finding the footage and the process of finishing the film, then its screening at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2006. Then, a day before No Place Like Home was to be shown in Jamaica at the Flashpoint Film Festival, Perry died. The movie was shown.

After the screening, Charles Campbell of the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association, which hosts the Reggae Month activities at the Ranny Williams Centre, noted that while music is at the core of the celebrations, film, fashion and dance are included, with plans to extend into drama. To the Henzells, he said, "I want to thank them for giving us this wonderful opportunity."

Robert Russell of Summerfest Productions spoke about his involvement in the project, and Wayne Jobson noted the length of time it took to get No Place Like Home to the screen.