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Copyright by Perry Henzell / 2002
An afternoon with PERRY HENZELL
by Stefan Krause
Sally and Perry Henzell offert me the must beautiful day of my trip to Jamaica, at their home "Itopia" up in the hills of Runaway Bay. Maximum Respect to the I. I'n'I arrived up there completely washed up by a 30 minutes lasting "Heaven's gate opening" and was then heartly welcomed by Sally with a good Coffee and a dry shirt. Soon Perry arrived and we started raisoning. Later, for the interview, we moved to Perry's office. It's a fantastic place. It was the first time for me to see a writers office and I can tell you I had a wicked feeling. I hope to show you a picture of it soon. In the middle of the talking, we had a very delicous lunchbreak with Sally. It came out, that Sally is a good friend to Jean-Louis Aubert, as she did the decoration for his home in Jamaica. But she was very impressed, as I told her how big he is in France. "Jean-Louis? Tu lui aurras cacher des choses?" After lunch the Henzell's like to do a Siesta and so did I. After the Siesta Sally offert me the nicest offer I ever heard. Because of the difficults to have a hot shower up in the hills, she asked me if I would like to take a warm bath for a change. "Respect Sally for that !" After we finished our interview and Sally and her daughter brought me back to MoBay.
Stefan: Hello Perry.
We're going to do this interview for the french reggae magazine "Natty Dread" ... about every'ting! Because, every'ting is every'ting, as the Rasta would say. First a couple of questions concerning THTC. Most of my questions will be based on the "Island Life Interview" you already did, to try not to ask you the same old qustions again.
2) First question:
You said, there was something magic about the casting, when you got Jimmy on. You saw this record cover, which shows on the front Jimmy as a very nice man and on the back he looked like a ...
Well, on the front he looked like a winner and on the back he looked like a sufferer.
This really hits you, right?
Which album was it?
Maybe "Struggeling Man", I'm not sure. Is around that time ... Maybe not "Struggeling Man", but anyway it was in the late 60's or early 70's.
Did you have the choice between any other known reggae artist of that time?
Yeah, I was casting for a while, but eventually I said, it would be on Jimmy.
You thought on Bob Marley for this character?
No, Bob Marley had not really service at that point ... not for me anyway. Jimmy was much bigger then Bob Marley at this time in terms of selling records and all of that.
And also how much Jimmy himself taught you about your own story. That must have been quit exciting.
That's why I cast him really.
Tell us more about the real Ivanhoe "Rhyging" Martin. I asked my Rasta Bredreens and they actually don't know much about him.
Well no, because he certainly, Rhyging, certainly wasn't Rasta. He was a criminal. But he was the first criminal in a way, who hit back. You know, he didn't just run. He hit back. He took a moral stand. He said I'd been ripped off, I'm going to kill or punish everybody who is done in.
And so he set out on a ?trail of retrobution?. And also, he was brilliant at promoting himself. He didn't promote himself as a fugitive, he promote himself as a star. So for example: The calls to the radio station, the photographs at the Gleaner, the photographs in the paper ... all that stuff, is what he did.
"I was here, but I dissapeart!"
Yeah, that was his slogan! And I was very aware of him, because as a child, I used to ride my horse around the property. And the property was just outside Kingston. And part of the property was in Swamp and I had to be carefull where I went, because I heard about this guy hiding out in the Swamp.
But he was by his own, not as the gangs you describe in "Power Game" ?
No, no. He was on his own.
How many people did he kill?
I think 3.
When he thiven something, he really gave it to the poor then?
No, not really (smiling). He was trying to survive. He was on the run and he was trying to survive. He was promoting himself as a star. His real name was Ivanhoe Martin, Rhyging was his nickname . Yeah, as you know everybody in Jamaica has a nickname ... an alias as they would say.
What about those other gunmen, badboys, rudeboys ?
There was a guy at that time named Whoppy King, who was a famous criminal too. But he didn't capture the public imagination the way that Rhyging did.
He wasn't into music?
No, and Rhyging wasn't into music neither. I added that. So, HTC is very loosly based on the Rhyging story, it's not the Rhyging story. It's just very, very loosly based ... and brought up to date too, you know, to the 70's from the 50's.
You said, that now in Kingston, West Kingston, Trench Town and all them, it's even worse then it was at the time of shooting the film.
Yes, I think that's true. I think Kingston is a more violant city now then it was then. And has changed, you know, I mean handguns have turned to ?ouzzies? ... and Ganja has turned to Cocain. It's a much tuffer scene then it was. As tuff as it was in the film ... is tuffer now!
5) Knife scene
The knife scene in THTC is actually rated one of the most violant scenes in movie history.
You know, there is never ... there is no shot of a knife cuting into flesh. That whole thing is suggestion. Yeah. There is no pornographique violance in it. You don't see any actual mutilation ... nothing like that. If you look at the scene ... the whole effect of that scene comes from suggestion. Check it . Check it.
But you see the blood spread.
You see the blood coming from his hands. Seeping through his hands. You don't see it coming from his face. Only imagination ... and people think it's the most violant scene they've ever seen!
And it was shot 18 months apart from the time, he sticks the knife into the guy's (Longa) shoulder, through the fight, to the cutting ... that was shot in 3 different locations, 18 months apart and half of it with a double. Most of the fight was with doubles. That scene is a very good illustration of editing ... of how you can shot something months and put it together and make it fluw, you know. I shot once, then I shot about 6 or 8 months later and then I shot about 12 months after this. And it illustrates how I work ... I work with the location, shooting, and the camerman is on his own ... he has to catch what he sees, bring the camera to the action. The last one I shot myself, I think.
How many cameramen were on the set?
Well, only one at the time, but I think I had 4 different cameramen on "The Harder They Come".
How much did you shoot yourself?
Very little, just maybe 5 shots, and the reason I did those, was because I had no crew left. I had no money for crew. I just had to do it myself. Just filling. You know I'm a great beliver in still shooting at the editing stage, I don't belive in shooting everything and say OK the film is finished. I belive in shooting and editing and shooting and editing and shooting and editing and then at the very last moment ... still shooting, just filling the last visual. That's how I prefer to work.
8) No Place Like Home / The Story
What is it about?
It is about: The first frame in the film is a mushroom cloud of an atomic bomb and a woman "haaaaa" (scared) waking up from a nightmare. And then it go to the opening sequence which has nothing to do with that at all. It's about shooting a commercial for a shampoo in Ocho Rios ... in the falls of the gardens in Ocho Rios. And the woman who is the producer of the commercial ... at the end of the shot, has to go down to Negril, to find a model for re-takes. By the time she gets to Negril, and Carl Bradshaw (Jose in THTC) takes her down there, because he's a driver. By the time she gets to Negril, the girl is gone. Because there've been police raids in Negril. They're hazeling the people there about Ganja and licenses for their businesses on the beach. So, Carl Bradshaw who plays the production assistant or a ?gopher? ... when he gets back to Negril, he is furious, because he is a political and he helped to elect the politicians that represents the area. So he says, he's going to go to Kingston, to complain to the politicians about the raids in Negril. So ... Susanne, the producer from New York decides to get a lift with him to Kingston and catch her plane, from Kingston back to New York. So you see, this woman starts off in an american reality in Jamaica, in Ocho Rios, goes a bit more into the jamaican reality in Negril. Now she is crossing the island, through the mountains. The car breaks down and she finds herself sourounded by Rastafarians ...
Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha ... Irie! Irie!
In the mountains, right. And that is, where we make the link with the first shot in the film. Because they're discussing Armagedon. They're discussing Revelations 18 from the Bible. And she realises, that they see it as a promiss, not a thread. They seeing it as the time, when babylon will fall. Right? So, she's smoking Ganja too ... she's really high ... she gets high enough to make love. The next morning they come out of the mountains into where they're mining bauxite ... she tries to make a call to book her plane ... from a McDonalds. And then they go on to the highway into Kingston, it's ?urban sbr...?, it gets uglier and uglier and the trucks get bigger and bigger and dirtyier and dirtyier ... and it ends where she is broken down on the highway again, looking at all this stuff and the finished commercial comes up and says: "We all living in a world for the beauty, as long as you use Sunflower Shampoo"
So is not really like a movie so much, as an experiment in realism. And I love it, you know. I love it more then THTC, I think it's a more interessting film. So, we'll see it.
We'll see it on DVD?
6) No Place Like Home / DVD
How much did you shoot of it?
I shot the whole thing ... 20 years ago. Except that I'm still now shooting 3 shots ... 3 inserts, very tiny, very very small, but very essential.
Why nobody did push on this film?
Because it was never finished. It will be finished as a tape, not as a film. Because they lost the negatives. I had so much trouble raising the money, that before I could finish the film a lot of the negatives were lost. I'm gonna put it on ... you know, that's the wonderfull thing about DVD ... you can add things to DVD. Right ! And I want to try another experiment. I'm always experimenting. Now for example with this edition of "No place like home" to the DVD, I want to give viewers a choice of music over various scenes. For example: There is a love scene ... now, I can think of 4 pieces of music that would go with that love scene and their would each give it a totaly different interpretation. Now I think, it might be interessting for people with a DVD, to play with that.
Yes, respect! Nice idea. It's a wicked idea!
I think it's a great idea.
7) Raper on THTC
I think another great idea that I have and Helene said she would follow up on this and I hope BMG as well. I want to do for HTC in francophone Africa and in Brazil ... maybe you can help me with that.
Why francophone Africa?
Because they don't understand english! And the audiance that I want to reach, can't read subtitles. I want to reach maybe a largly illiterate audiance.
As you already did with THTC in Jamaica?
Yes. You see, is 2 films. One film is for educated people who want to climbs into another life. The other film is the people living that life. Who are very largly illiterated and educated at all. So to reach them, I have to talk to them in their language. So, to talk to them in their language, I want to get a Raper.
A Rapppppa? (I didn't get the word at all)
Like a Rap artist. A singer who is a raper.
Ah ok, a Raper. Yeah, I heard about that.
And I'm still trying to do it ... still trying to do it ... still trying to persuade them to do it. But very sort of ?ochie?, like in ?Walof? or something like that. It'll be like somebody, whispering over your shoulder and telling you, what they saying in the film. You understand what I'm saying ? ... so, you're sitting in a theater, in ... Cote d'Ivoir for example ... and on the soundtrack, there is a guy Walof, speaking in Walof, or whatever their language would be and saying in Rap ... saying what they're saying on the screen.
Like back in the old days, with the piano in the theaters.
Yah. Or like every news program you ever see. You see somebody talking, it take down the sound and they're putting a translation. But I want to do it with STYLE, you know. I want to do it with CLASSE. I wanna do it with RHYME. I wanna do it with RYTHM. I wanna do it with REAL TALENT in the Raper. I can't explaine that to anybody. That's why I keep talking'bout it, talking'bout it ... I wish I had the money to bloody well do it myself ... I have to try to persuade somebody ... This going to open up a market of millions, who otherwise will never really understand THTC.
Of course, because they don't get it.
People are sooooo sloooow ... to experiment. They don't want to experiment.
And they don't get the jamaican patois.
No, of course not!
Even my friends in France ... they have troubles, so many troubles.
Yah. But if it was some guy with an accent from, you know, Togo ... or ... anywhere in francophone africa ... it would be great. So, I'm still trying to push that.
But don't you think it would lose its jamaican patois charme?
No. Not at all. Because you hear those rythms in the background. You hear the dialog in the background. But the dialog would be down, so far, you would hear the Rap singer above it. You know, it can be a two tone thing. Listen! I'm not saying it can work. Maybe it won't work, but it's something to try. People are sooooo slooooow !
How is it possible, you can't find any people, pushing on those ideas ?
I don't know. I have to find somebody ...
Talk to Helene Lee ...
No. She has tried. She would help me. But, no, it's up to people like BMG who have all the money in the world. I'm pressing with BMG now, because they bought the rights, to the DVD for worldwide for 5 years ... so I want to do it in chinese and ... . They have it for 5 or 6 years. So they have all the money, they must have some youngsters there, that have some balls ... why don't they do it ? And have some imagination.
You told them ?
I told them about this. I haven't heard back from them, but I'm hoping, that they will move on it. I don't know. But maybe THIS will give them a push. I keep pushing.
Maybe we should send them a copy of this.
Yeah, send them a copy and see.
9) Business & France
Everything clean in business now ? You sure you will get back your rights in 5 years?
Oh yeah. I'm very experienced in business. I'm very experienced in business, because I did business in 43 different countries. I had to learn business.
I like the way you did the promotion for THTC in Brixton. Must have been a tuff situation. First nobody came to the movie, then you catched a couple of youngster in the streets to distribute flyers all over London to show, how smashing the film hit the Kingston audiance.
I could tell you a story about every single country I was. Everywhere there was a story. I'm gonna write a book about one. Yeah, because everybody does business in a different way. Totaly different way. French do business on the bases of seduction. The british do business on the bases of the club. Remember the club. The french have seduced every african leader ... into complete stuper. With chateaux and ... you know ... all the seductions of France have one over, one after another ... all the people that they need to deal with in Africa. And how do they keep them ? They keep them with seduction. How do the british maintain there colonies? They say: "Join the club". It's not seduction, it's not a seduction thing. It's a different thing. They don't end up with chateaux and french mysteries and ?seale? full of good wine.
How good do you know France ? In "Power Game" you talk about the "Le Bourg" airport.
I know France. I first went to Paris, when I was 14 years old. I hitch hiked to get to Paris. And been back here every 2, 3 years all my life. But my french is hopeless. I feel I know Paris. I mean ... I feel I know Paris. I'm completely at home in Paris, except that I can't speak french.
10) Winston Rodney
In the credits of THTC is a Winston Rodney. Burning Spear?
No, no. He was a sound recorder. He was a technician.
When I saw the preacher for the first time, I thought, could this be the Spear.
No, no. I'd love to put him on film, would be great.
Right. So, actually it was Basil Keane.
Yeah, Basil Keane, he was a great character. He was a dentist. He dead unfortunatly. There were two preachers. One was Elsa's guardian and there was another preacher who was in the church and he was a natural preacher. Preaching is a big thing in Jamaica. They are the biggest stars.
11) Shooting in West Kingston
Shooting in West Kingston at the time, you said, there were no troubles.
No, not really. But I had to know who to talk to. Everything went fine.
12) Desmond Dekker, Scotty & Soundtrack
Desmond Dekker is great.
Was he first choice for you, when you had to put the songs together?
Yeah, I love his music. I love his voice. It's fraizing.
Him still great?
I'm not sure. I haven't heard from him for a long time.
More about the soundtrack: Scotty's "Draw Your Brakes". This is one of my most favourite tunes of all times.
Yes, I love that song.
What is the meaning of the opening lyrics?
Common, you can't give me that ...
Nobody knows. Forward and Fyaka, Manakel and no go saka ... well, Jason knows how to get in touch with Scotty. We should try and find him. I have no clou what it means.
This is actually the only song I know from Scotty. Are there any albums ?
Yeah, maybe you can get it in Kingston. Yeah, I think the film did him a lot of good, because apart from that song, I don't think he's had much exposure. But he is great. When you think ... Scotty, was way ahead. He was before his time. With rap and dancehole and all that, wasn't he? I mean Rap and Dancehole, that same talking and you know, rapping over the music and 'ting. Scotty was really there in advance. So you know, he should get some respect for that.
Absolutely. Maybe "Natty Dread" should write an article about Scotty.
We should try and find him and see what's happening.
You think you boosted the Maytals too?
Weeeeeeell, a bit, maybe.
So the soundtrack, everybody knows, it's fantastic. We have the Maytals, we have ...
You know it just won the best soundtrack in history, from e-channel, entertainment channel in America. It's a cable channel. Well, I wouldn't say that. I wouldn't claim that even myself. It's up there, but I don't think I can say what's best. Anyway, it was a very nice compliment.
Wow! Tell me: Jimmy Cliff wrote all the songs especially for the film ?
No. Only "Harder They Come" he wrote for the film. All the other songs have been written already.
So you catched up with him ?
Yes ! Everything's cool now. He is just waiting for me to get better. And I'm pretty much better. I think I'm pretty much well enough to shoot a movie now.
13) Chris Blackwell
Chris Blackwell, a childhood friend of you ?
Well teenager anyway.
Do you think he's babylon?
Noooo! I think that his instincts ... his first love is music ... and his love is business ... but I think he ... Well, when he sold the business to Polygram ...
Why did he do that ? (sorry to break you again)
Because I think he ... I don't know ... you will have to ask him ... but I think he was feeling like ... you know, pop music is a youngster business and maybe he felt ... obviously, he wasn't feeling the excitment out of the music business ...
... Anymore ...
Well ... he felt some ! He didn't fit well into that Polygram contract, did he? Because he didn't stay with them. And now, he starting up again. He has a company called Palm ... Palm Pictures. So, you know, I think he's a quy who likes to be in control. He likes to have a small business that he controls completely. And then I think, he likes to build it and build it, and you know, when it gets to big ... then ... get rid of it.
Well ... that's my impression.
At which stage did he come into the film?
He came into to distribute the soundtrack.
He never distributed the film?
No. He may have done the film in England. But I can't remember. I think maybe he was involved. I think of him as a guy who did soundtrack. And we worked very well together. We worked all over the world. He did a very good job.