Picha Dis: Films shot in Kingston

by Nicola Madden-Greig

Imagine it: Films shot in Kingston. The city of Kingston has long been enticing local and international film makers to immortalize her rich imagery, charm and unique rhythm. The lure of Kingston’s magic has captured the imagination of some of the world’s most creative pioneers. One of the earlier flirtations started with the legendary Ian Fleming, whose iconic book in its film version “Dr. No” directed by Terence Young was filmed in 1962, the first Bond movie to be made, utilized some of Kingston’s most interesting locales from the Rockfort mineral bath/Carib Cement Company, Morgan’s Harbour Hotel, sections of downtown Kingston including Port Royal, Harbour and King streets, Kings House to the members only Liguanea Club. Other flirtations included the 1972 “The Harder They Come” directed by Perry Henzell and featuring Jimmy Cliff. Mainly shot in Kingston, areas such as Milk Lane, Coronation Market and Trench Town were showcased. This film has gone on to become a cult classic and is considered the first Jamaican feature film. 

Kingston with its gritty edge, diverse inner city communities and posh uptown neighbourhoods, has been the backdrop on many gangster and action genre movies including 1978 “Rockers” directed by Ted Bafaloukos mainly featuring Trench Town, 1995 “Kla$h” directed by Bill Parker with scenes shot in Port Royal, and the National Stadium, 1997 “Dancehall Queen” directed by Rick Elgood where Cross Road Market and Strawberry Hill Hotel were also featured, to 1999 “Third World Cop” directed by Chris Browne and shot at numerous locales in Kingston. 

Other notable works included 2002 “Shottas” directed by Cess Silvera with scenes in Waterhouse, Asylum Night Club, Knutsford Boulevard; and Stilwell Road, Stony Hill St Andrew. The film was set in Miami and Kingston. After shooting Dancehall Queen, director Rick Elgood also shot in Kingston in 2003 “One Love” followed by “Surf Rasta” in 2009. Kingston has also mesmerized young up and coming film maker Storm Saulter and in 2010 he directed “Better Mus’ Come” followed by “Sprinter” (not yet released). It chronicles the life of a young Jamaican track athlete a la Usain Bolt. 

Inspiration of this city!

The inspiration of this city and the greater St. Andrew region (commonly just referred to as Kingston) has caused many script writers to incorporate the landscapes and history into romance, gangster, horror, action and other genres. 

The backdrop of this city that encompasses the 7th largest natural harbour in the world, the infamous and historic Port Royal where pirates 1962 and buccaneers once roamed, the sprawling Liguanea plain, the majestic UNESCO designated World Heritage site of The Blue & John Crow Mountains, the inner cities such as Trench Town; whose famous residents included, Alton Ellis, Hortense Ellis, Delroy Wilson, Cynthia Schloss, Dobby Dobson, Leroy Sibbles, Bongo Herman, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, but most notably Bob Marley, continues to be a great lure 

Besides feature films, many documentaries and TV series have also called Kingston home. The Getaway TV series, that has celebrities touring their favourite city in the world, came to Kingston in 2013 as actress and American Grammy-award winning artist Eve, choose Kingston as her #1 destination. Locations featured included The Courtleigh Hotel & Suites, Strawberry Hill, Emancipation Park, Coronation Market and Hellshire Beach.

In the book “Jamaica, Land of Film” by Peter Pollack, shares how Kingston is intimately entwined with both regional and international film history. Two examples he highlights are the 1916 “A Daughter of the Gods” which had substantial set construction in Kingston and is one of the earliest examples of nudity in movies by actress Annette Kelleman. The second is the first horror genre, the 1991 film, “Popcorn” shot in the Ward Theatre in downtown Kingston – renamed Dreamland Theatre in the film. As the love affair continues, more recent movies include the 2016 “King of The Dancehall” directed by American actor Nick Cannon and the yet to be released “Yardie” directed by leading man Idris Elba in 2017, shot in London and various locations in Kingston.

Kingston continues to be a paradox and delivers a one-of- a- kind backdrop to both films, documentaries, TV shows, music videos and real life. This kind of Kingstonography is sure to keep luring in both local and international directors and cinematographers as well as visitors keen on discovering the Kingston magic. Note: For information on filming in Kingston and/or Jamaica, please contact Renee Robinson, Film Commissioner, JAMPRO www.filmjamaica.com