Exclusive Interview with Ghett'a Life's Director Chris Browne
FilmLand Empire: The film is a real eye opener and I had no idea that Kingston is such a divided community. How motivated are you to show the political elements of life in Jamaica and specifically Kingston?
Chris Browne: Jamaicans live, eat and breath politics. On the radio talk shows, newspapers, in the street, that is all there seems to be. This is what we kill one another about, not religion like the Middle East. i have been working in film in Kingston from the 80's and been in every garrison community and seen their life, and I have been fascinated by how it is run, and there is a lot more to be said. But the communities really only draw the lines during election time, that is why I place the film in the throes of elections. If they every make the film on Dudus the Don from Tivoli Gardens who is now in court in New York, that would be amazing.
- Given the huge box office success of the film in Jamaica do you think that in some way you may have inspired the government to create initiatives for sports funding as a way of helping to improve these communities?
I believe all previous and current Governments have been putting a lot of money into sports in Jamaica as a means to give the youth some thing to do and bring them together, more so than any other thing. Leaving very little if nothing for the arts.
But it is difficult to break down the barrier of the garrisons that the two parties have created, especially when every 5 years they have an election and they divide the people again for their own gains, how do you break that cycle? It will take more than sports. But it is a start.
- How did Lennox Lewis come to be involved in the project? And did he have a lot of creative input?
Back in 2001 when i had a treatment for the script and went to Cannes film festival for funding, I got in touch with Lennox in London and spend the day with him discussing the story and his role as a mentor to the inner city boxer. At the time he was the undisputed world heavy weight champ and he was very supportive of the project as he saw it a a positive film which could uplift the youth in the communities. He was happy to be involved and play a role in the film. Lennox's name goes far in England as he is very much loved and respected in the UK and I got meetings in London because of it. I met with Lennox on a few occasions in Jamaica and discussed the script and the changes the script was going through and at one time had two ending which I remember discussing in Kingston with him and deciding on the one we have now over the other.
- I really enjoyed seeing a film in Jamaican 'patois' but do you think having the subtitles will limit your distribution in places like the USA?
Besides the fact that it has english sub-titles, I believe that it has limited distribution in USA because it is a black ethic film with no stars. It's audience primarily is the Caribbean diaspora in the first world, and that audience is quite vast. if it crosses over that is a bonus.
- Do you have any plans for your next project and if so will we again see the elements of the criminal underworld? Is this genre a personal favourite of yours?
I have a few projects which I am contemplating, and they have nothing to do with the criminal underworld, or Kingston inner cities. I have a script I wrote years ago which would need co-production as the budget is double that of Ghett'a Life if not more. It's a love story about the Jamaican class structure set within the backdrop of horse racing in Jamaica. I believe this is more of a cross over film that the others I have done. It would have more of an international appeal than just a Jamaican appeal.
There is a reason for the inner city films of Jamaica, firstly, it's cheaper to do, as the crew and actors live in Kingston. Less art direction as we shoot whats there, and there are many, many interesting stories from the inner city. As we make more films, the subjects will vary and you will see many other sides of Jamaica.