Lots of Fighting In The Yardie, while Audience Argue Over Jamaican to English Subtitles


Stephen Weir

Release Date

Monday, July 15, 2019


Yardie, a British/Jamaican action movie directed by superstar actor Idris Elba received its Canadian debut last week at the Royal Cinema in downtown Toronto. And while the 108-minute feature film was awash with blood and murder, everybody in the sold-out theatre left on their own two feet arguing about the Jamaican to English subtitles.

British actor Idris Elba directed the full-length thriller (His first time behind the camera) and brought to Canadian by the Caribbean Tales Film Festival. Made a year ago but shown only briefly in the UK and the US, the Film Festival used this rare showing to introduce to the media the line-up of films for this September’s 2019 Festival.

The movie, based on Victor Headly’s best selling Jamaican/British 1992 novel, is an uncompromising look at how a wave of black on black murder in Jamaica’s Trench Town was easily exported to England back in the late seventies.

The storyline takes viewers from Jamaica to England some 40-years ago. Reeling from his brother’s death in a shooting he witnessed as a child, Dennis Campbell, aka “D”, is hired by Jamaican crime lord and reggae producer King Fox to deliver a package of cocaine to British gangster Rico who camps out in in London. When D finds out that the man who killed his brother years ago is also living in England, he is torn between revenge against the murderer and the drug delivery assignment he was sworn to make.

No spoiler alert needed, just be aware that almost everyone gets shot dead in the film. All the hits are on Jamaican men, be they on island Yardies or members of the British diaspora.

True to the era we never see the police in Trench Town nor in the Borough of Hackney England. In both ghettos the law is the gun and no one successfully pleads for mercy.

Elba is no stranger to bloody action films. His oeuvre includes American Gangster, Thor, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Infinity War. He also starred in Pacific Rim and Beasts of No Nation. On TV he was the unforgettable Stringer Bell in The Wire and John Luther in the BBC series Luther.

So authentic is the film Elba had subtitles for the benefit of people not used to Jamaican patois. At an open mike session held after the movie ended CBC host Dwight Drummond found that Caribbean people at the Toronto launch were annoyed by the subtitles – “why did they say Pickney in the movie and write child on the screen?” asked one audience members. Others in the theatre (myself included) welcomed the translation.

When he isn’t making movies there is a gentler side to the Big Guy, much of centered in Canada. When filming in the city last year he met Canada beauty queen and model Sabrine Dhowre. They were married earlier this year and were rumoured to be in Toronto. All the media attending the pre-show party kept watching along College Street for Elba and Dhowre to show up (they didn’t).

This is the 14th year for the film festival that kicks off September 04 at the Royal and Carlton Cinemas. There are over 20 short and full-length films made in Jamaica, Haiti, Guadalupe, Virgin Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, Canada and the US.

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