Update 3/14/2013: It’s been two years since we interviewed director Storm Saulter about Better Mus’ Come, a unique feature that mared a new generation of Jamaican film. Now with the help of the African American Film Festival Releasing Movement, the movie will screen in US theaters for the first time, on March 15th in New York and LA. See a show times and buy tickets here.
Previously: Director Storm Saulter (above) has no problem multitasking. For his new Jamaican film Better Mus’ Come, he assumed the position of editor, director, writer and cinematographer. While Saulter has a wealth of experience working in the North American film industry—he was a longtime assistant to video director Little X—it was his home of Jamaica that inspired him to create his first feature length film about bipartisan conflict, and jumpstart a movement in the Jamaican film industry. The film will be released in Jamaica this Wednesday, October 13th, before being launched overseas to the American film market in November. We spoke with him at his home in Kingston, where he served us tea on an overzealous rainy afternoon.
What is Better Mus’ Come about?
The film begins in ’77 and ends the first couple days of ’78 during the Green Bay Massacre. The Green Bay Massacre is kind of the punctuation point, and it’s loosely based on the type of guys that would have ended up in that situation. I took a fictional character and created a story that explained why this would happen. The main character, Ricky, is a community leader whose gang is aligned to the JLP and in his community, just one street over there is another gang that is aligned to the PNP, the ruling party. He meets Kamala one day, who’s from the PNP side, and they start up a natural energy. She sees that he is kind of a sad character, that he is intelligent but because he is a leader, that involves violence. Maybe someone got shot up, and a man like him and his crew might be involved. We often see these people as faceless, mad dog criminals, but you have to understand that these are real people with motivations. When you just think of them as a faceless dog, any young man of a certain age could be considered a criminal. It isn’t a movie glorifying the “badman,” like so many other Jamaican films, it’s really about the cause and effect of violence. I also wanted to show the roots of today’s gang conflicts in Jamaica, that the ’70s were a starting point.
Why were the ’70s a particularly powerful setting for this film?
What happened was a serious ideological layer came into play between the two parties. When Michael Manley won for the PNP in ’72 he was about uplifting the people, black empowerment and a certain amount of nationalism. This meant change for the masses. The upper class started to see this change and they started to worry that all the wealth would be shifted out amongst the people. With Manley in power and Cuba next door, America, not wanting the domino effect to take place in their back yard, got behind Edward Seaga and the business party, the JLP. So it became a communism versus capitalism, uptown versus downtown situation. Then the C.I.A. was in Jamaica and as were the Cuban operatives and a propaganda war began. So you have people that aren’t being educated properly– the ones firing their guns– and they’re being empowered in certain ways and feeling like it’s their time to take what’s theirs. It quickly became a cycle of violence. You started to see the guy next door as being a real enemy because of a difference in ideology.