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Jamaican Crime Classic 'The Harder They Come' Headed For A Remake

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com April 11, 2011 at 12:59PM

Some films are inextricably tied to their soundtracks. It's hard to think of, say, "The Graduate," without Simon & Garfunkel coming to mind, or "Harold & Maude" without Cat Stevens. Fan-favorite directors from Quentin Tarantino to Wes Anderson are known as much for their skills at compiling mixtapes as they are for their filmmaking. But few soundtracks have had such gigantic impact as the one to the 1972 Jamaican crime movie "The Harder They Come," written and directed by Perry Henzell.
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Some films are inextricably tied to their soundtracks. It's hard to think of, say, "The Graduate," without Simon & Garfunkel coming to mind, or "Harold & Maude" without Cat Stevens. Fan-favorite directors from Quentin Tarantino to Wes Anderson are known as much for their skills at compiling mixtapes as they are for their filmmaking. But few soundtracks have had such gigantic impact as the one to the 1972 Jamaican crime movie "The Harder They Come," written and directed by Perry Henzell.

The film, which starred reggae legend Jimmy Cliff as Ivanhoe Martin, a would-be songwriter thrust into a world of crime shortly after he arrives in Kingston, has a unbeaten collection of tracks -- mostly from Cliff, but also featuring the likes of The Maytals, Desmond Dekker and The Slickers -- which reads like a best-of for the genre: the title track, "Many Rivers To Cross," "Rivers of Babylon," "Pressure Drop" and "You Can Get It If You Really Want," to name but a handful. The soundtrack was more or less entirely responsible for introducing the genre to international audiences. But that's not to undersell the film itself -- it's a terrific, vibrant little crime flick, which has barely aged a day in the forty-odd years since its release. So, of course, a remake is in the works.

Variety report that Xingu Films ("Moon," "Snatch"), the company run by Sting's wife Trudie Styler, are teaming with Canada's Conquering Lion Pictures ("Poor Boy's Game") and Justine Henzell, the daughter of the film's original helmer Perry Henzell for a remake of the film, which will be partially set in London. No director or cast are attached, but the script comes from former NME writer Chris Salewicz, who was behind "Third World Cop," the most successful ever Caribbean-produced film, as well as a long history of covering reggae, including the book "Bob Marley: The Untold Story."

Producer Damon D'Olivera calls the film a 're-imagining,' which will use contemporary reggae and 'reggae-influenced grooves,' and says that the film is very deliberately timed: "Next year is the 50th anniversary of Jamaica, and the 40th anniversary of the original film, so the timing is perfect. "The Harder They Come" was the first film to bring the real Jamaica to the world, and that script informs this new version."

While we're less than enthused about the prospect of a remake, considering how unlikely it is that the film will be able to match up to the original, Styler's shown a keen eye for young filmmakers in the past, and Henzell at least seems confident, saying that she's turned down many approaches in the past, but that "For the first time, I'm confident we have a team that will simultaneously honor the original while creating a new narrative worthy of the legacy." We'll see. There's no word on when it's expected to move forward, as yet.

This article is related to: Films, Musicians, Jimmy Cliff, The Harder They Come

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