(Release Info London schedule; August 23rd, 2018, Picturehouse, 18:00)
Set in ’70s Kingston and ’80s Hackney, "Yardie' centres on the life of a young Jamaican man named 'D' (Aml Ameen), who has never 88 recovered from the murder, committed during his childhood, of his older brother Jerry Dread (Everaldo Creary). 'D' grows up under the wing of a Kingston Don and music producer named King Fox (Sheldon Shepherd). Fox dispatches him to London, where he reconnects with his childhood sweetheart, Yvonne (Shantol Jackson), and his daughter Mona (Naomi Ackie) who he's not seen since she was a baby. He also hooks up with a soundclash crew, called 'High Noon'. But before he can be convinced to abandon his life of crime and follow the righteous path, he encounters the man who shot his brother 10 years earlier, and embarks on a bloody, explosive quest for retribution; a quest which brings him into conflict with vicious London gangster Rico (Stephen Graham).
Getting the character of 'D' right is the key to making this movie work. Though now more relatable and sympathetic than he's in the book, it's still essential his on-screen incarnation is not only someone who could convince you he’d grown up under tough conditions on the gang-war-torn streets of Kingston, but who you could also relate to and empathise with, no matter your own cultural background. 'D' has a certain charisma in his eyes, but he also has a volatile and traumatised personality. The 'D' in the script has gone through some shit, so it’s not just about holding up a gun and screaming and shouting. 'D' is undeniably the heart of "Yardie". It’s hardly a one-man sbow. The first place we find 'D', of course, is Jamaica, during a very troubled time. Even today, some areas in Kingston, especially Trench Town, the birthplace of reggae music and Bob Marley’s hometown. After all, Trench Town is still considered one of the world’s most dangerous places, blighted by poverty and suffering frequent gun battles between it's rival gangs. The audiences can relate to the lead character of 'D'. His anger, his drive and charisma.
The Rico character’s really central. You want him to be memorable. King Fox is a manipulative, imposing gang boss. He's quite a big, physical character. He's skinny and has a really interesting, singular, sculpted face. He can be genuinely very frightening, but not in a predictable, obviously gangster-y way. When we meet first Yvonne in the story, she's still a kid, trying not to get caught in the crossfire of King Fox’s ’70s turf war with rival gang 'The Tappa Crew'. Yvonne has something else going on. Of course she’s from Kingston, but she has an international appeal as well. Namely, the spontaneous street party thrown by 'D’s brother Jerry Dread meant as a way of quelling the gang war, but which horrifically ends with Jerry’s murder. The final piece of the casting puzzle js perhaps the hardest to find.
On it's publication in 1992, Victor Headley’s 'Yardie' proved an instant cult hit. Put out by a two-man independent publishing operation called 'X Press', it was sold at clothing stores and outside nightclubs rather than in traditional bookshops, and through strong word-of-mouth shifted 30,000 copies. It was the first populist black title aimed at a black audience” in 'The United Kingdom'. It’s a page-turning novel full of twists and turns, with a compelling main character. It's a UK gangster story. And it explores a culture that everybody in England is a little bit aware of, but which this book really delved into. Adapted by Norman Brock "Yardie" is a story about a young man dealing with the trauma of losing a sibling at the tender age of 10. Victor’s novel captured the imagination and that of the many people that made this book a cult 80s classic. The script has all the attractive qualities of a genre movie. The film brings it to life in a unique way, in a way that's driven by 'D's experiences as a young 'BWOY' growing up in East London. The film crafts the visuals with every moment detailed in a way that the viewer leaves the film as if they're there too. It's about the trauma of 'D' to be the spine that connects all the limbs together, the violence, the love, the loss, the migration, the music, and attempt to deliver a layered portrayal of a young Jamaican man, someone you love or hate by the end but you do have an opinion on.
Not only is it a period movie, set in 1973 and 1983, which required a lot of detail specific to a particular culture. "Yardie" is undoubtedly a tense, gritty thriller. It's something that sat in pop culture. The gangster element feels true to the world. The look and tone of this film is very cinematic. Obviously, Rasta culture is at the forefront, but it’s a vibrant, multicultural world. It gives you an insight and humanises these people. "Yardie" is a word that was coined by Scotland Yard about Jamaicans who came to England in the ’70s”. Drawn from the patois word ‘yard’, meaning ‘home’, it doesn’t just describe the notorious criminal element on which the movie focuses.
Everybody got the banner. And a lot of black people in England were saying, ‘I’m a Yardie', and putting a Jamaican flag in their cars and stuff so they didn’t get attacked. Because Jamaicans were the feared black element among the prejudiced people in England at the time. So it has very negative connotations for most people who know it. But in the film we’re readdressing what it means. The point of film-making is to humanise the experiences of other people we would never meet, and people are gonna fall in love with the world in this movie. When the music drops, it’s gonna hit people in the most positive way, man. It’s just gonna warm up their spirits. "Yardie" is a gangster movie and a thriller. It's also, in some ways arguably, a musical, the film compares the toasting scenes with the rap battles of 2002 Eminem-starring movie "8 Mile". But as well as entertaining his audience, the film also wants to provide an insight into 'Yardie' culture. If you’re not so au fait with Jamaican culture, you’ll learn something from "Yardie".