INTERVIEW: Justine Henzell

Justine Henzell

Justine Henzell, daughter of Perry Henzell, and Calabash producer is a busy woman

The Harder They Come, by Perry Henzell, is the cult classic film and first feature ever shot in Jamaica, which brought reggae artist Jimmy Cliff, and reggae music in general worldwide attention.

Justine Henzell has worked to keep her father’s legacy going strong, and The Harder They Come the ‘Musical’ has had huge success since it first hit the UK stage in 2006. This Authentic Reggae Musical Sensation Live on UK Tour Summer 2010, starring an amazing line up of British talent, is definitely one not to miss!

itzcaribbean caught up with Justine Henzell for a quick Q & A.

The film ‘The Harder They Come’, is a pioneering film in many ways, and has had a huge impact on Jamaican culture, what do you think has been its most enduring influence in Jamaican music and film?

The concept that you can be authentically Jamaican and reach an international audience.

What was it like growing up with such a pioneering and inspirational figure, do you remember much about the film being made when you were a child.

As a child I wasn’t awed by my father, he was just my father and I would play in his office or editing room while he worked. It was when I older and able to understand the significance of his work that I had a deeper understanding of his intellect and talent.

The Harder they Come is a major part in your life, why is it important to you to keep it going

I think it is because almost 40 years later it can reach a new audience, eager for authenticity in a world of media that is so fake. It is an enduring testament to the power of Jamaica’s culture.

The musical first staged in 2006 in the UK, have there been any major changes with the show, and what have been some of the highlights.

The show has changed over time and to suit various venue, and cast changes, but it remains true to the book that my father wrote for the musical.

How important is authenticity to you in the show with the dance moves and styling.

Everything to do with the show has to be authentic!!. Our wonderful choreographer Jackie Guy is Jamaican, in fact rehearsals with him were frequently ‘history lessons’ for the young cast members illustrated by dance moves and punctuated by Jamaican Patois.

When the film originally came out there was a lot of support from the Caribbean community, do you find that the musical attracts a wider audience today, and do you feel audience reactions and participation differ from country to country.

The audience reaction is universal now – they react very strongly to the story of a man struggling to see his dream come true and no one can resist the music coupled with incredible movement and song.

Why do you think the story still appeals to today, and what do you hope the audience takes away with them after the show is over.

That “you can get it if you really want”

You also founded the Calabash literary Awards, tell us more about that.

The Calabash International Literary Festival will have its 10th staging this year and it brings authors and poets from all over the world to read under a tent by the Caribbean sea to an attentive audience of thousands. The list of writers and performers includes Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka (Nigeria), Geoff Dyer (UK), Colson Whitehead (USA), Nami Mun (South Korea), Sharon Olds (USA), Sudeep Sen (India), Feryal Ali Guaher (Pakistan), Helen Oyeyemi (Nigeria) and Russell Banks (USA).

Roots-rock reggae superstar Freddie McGregor will headline a late-night concert that will also feature singer/songwriter, Etana. Calabash 2010 will also mark the release of the anthology So Much Things to Say, a collection of work by 100 poets who have appeared at the festival.

Whats next, Are there any other films, books, or projects to be looking out for?

A remake of ‘The Harder They Come’ is in development, as well as a screen adaptation of my fathers first novel ‘Power Game’