Back to IndieWire

“For Educational Purposes Only”: Rare Screening of Early Jamaican Films in Chicago May 9

“For Educational Purposes Only”: Rare Screening of Early Jamaican Films in Chicago May 9

I suppose if
you asked anyone to name a Jamaican film, they would say, “The Harder They Come”. And if you asked them to name another one, they would say, “The Harder They Come”..

And that’s
the point; as far as many people are concerned, there’s only been one Jamaican film, and that’s it. But, admittedly, the Jamaican Film industry is small, unique and singular, and there’s a lot more to it than just Jimmy Cliff – like educational films.

These days, when people see these films, they laugh, and deservedly so, at their antiquated, simplistic and politically
incorrect point of views, such as “Dating Do’s and Don’ts for Teenagers,” or the notorious
“Boy Beware,” the infamous paranoid educational film warning young boys of murderous
gay predators (Check it out on YouTube if you want a good laugh).

But, educational films also provided valuable knowledge, like farming methods and
health safety prevention. And in the case of Jamaican educational films, most
of which were produced British Colonial Film Unit, they provided us with a rare look
at life in Jamaica, which was still very much a rural society.

More than
that, says Professor Terri Francis of Indiana University Department of
Communications and Culture, these films provide “a historical record of pivotal
moments in Jamaican history, but they also document cultural producers,
including musicians, actors, and the educator-filmmakers who made them”..

For example, cinematographer
Franklyn St. Juste, who worked on many films for the Unit, later went on to be the cameraman for “The Harder They Come,” so it all comes together
full circle.

These are films which were made during the early to mid-1950’s for the British Colonial Film
Unit (definitely during the period when the sun was very much setting on their
British Empire), such as, “It Can Happen to You” (1956), which teaches
the importance of treating venereal disease. They, as Professor Francis accurately
says, “provide new insight into how modern media is used for education and as
well as addressed massive social change, how that social change affected the
films.”

Today, these
films are rarely seen, let alone even discussed, but Prof Francis has written extensively
about them and, after similar screenings in other cities, for the first time in Chicago, on Sat May 9, she will present a screening and discussion of
several of these long forgotten, but valuable films, at the Washington Park Arts
Incubator, located at 301 E. Garfield Blvd, starting at 4PM.

For more information about the program, and to see a few other examples of other
films that were made, go HERE to the U.K. Colonial Films website.

This Article is related to: News and tagged ,