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Posthumous honour for Perry Henzell

Published:Tuesday | March 16, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Perry Henzell on the set of 'The Harder They Come' in 1972.
Perry Henzell on set with Jimmy Cliff 1972. - Contributed Photos

Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer

JAMAICAN Filmmaker Perry Henzell, director of the 1972 low-budget classic The Harder They Come, will be honoured on Friday by the American Cinematheque with a tribute at the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles.

The event is co-produced by Wild Indigo, a multimedia company based in Los Angeles.

It will feature a discussion moderated by Jamaican music executive Wayne Jobson, with participants including Henzell's daughter, Justine Henzell, producer David Garonzik, reggae historian Roger Steffens and Arthur Gorson, a director at Wild Indigo.

Other features include the screening of a new 35-millimetre print of The Harder They Come, and the California premiere of Henzell's film, No Place Like Home.

Gorson was a photographer with Rolling Stone magazine when he first met Henzell in Jamaica in 1972. Henzell was working on The Harder They Come at the time and the two remained friends until Henzell's death from cancer in 2006.

"This is a very important film honour. Perry was a brilliant man whose world was Jamaica and he shared it with the rest of us," Gorson told The Gleaner from Los Angeles.

A statement from American Cinematheque was equally complimentary: "Perry Henzell is the most important filmmaker to emerge from the Caribbean. His landmark film The Harder They Come was responsible for introducing reggae music to the world. With unique insight, visual sense and original thinking, he forever changed the way we look at things," the statement read in part.

Henzell was universally known for The Harder They Come, an urban drama that starred Jimmy Cliff and Carl Bradshaw. But shortly after the release of that film, he began working on No Place Like Home which was completed decades after and finally shown four years ago at the Flashpoint Film Festival in Negril, one day after Henzell died.

"No Place Like Home was Perry's desire to reach a broader audience by allowing Jamaica to be seen through the eyes of an outsider," Gorson said.

A former advertising executive, Henzell said he wanted to make a movie loosely based on the life of Ivanhoe 'Rhygin' Martin, a notorious bad man who besieged west Kingston in the late 1940s.

The Harder They Come was that film. It was produced on the proverbial shoestring budget, and shot in the smaller 16-mm format.

"It has not previously been seen in all its visual glory. This new print has been digitally restored with a newly-mastered surround soundtrack," Gorson explained.

Organisers of Friday's event will also honour Cliff for his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame which took place last night in New York City.

Formed in 1981, the American Cinematheque's main objective is to "honour America's indigenous art forms" among other things. The works of actors Al Pacino, Sean Connery and Tom Cruise, as well as directors Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese, have been recognised by the organisation.