Inna de Yard – Film Review

My wanderlust was instantly re-fuelled with the beautiful aerial shots over the lush Jamaican landscapes that were unveiled in the initial scenes of Inna de Yard, even though I had only recently been to Grenada and Carriacaou, also in the Caribbean, as recently as the Easter holidays! The film is extremely aesthetically pleasing and will leave you feeling hypnotised but triumphant!

Inna de Yard is a documentary directed by Peter Webber and charts the movements of a collective of renowned Jamaican musicians as they regroup, decades later, to create an album called Inna de Yard. The film captures this essence of the album collaboration process beautifully with interwoven scenes between the interaction of the musicians and the local activity on the streets. An early scene even portrayed the process of creating vinyl records starting from a lump of vinyl squeezed onto a table, such is the musical detail of the film!

Inna de Yard film poster
Inna de Yard film poster

We are implanted within the rehearsals of the singers such as Ken Boothe, Kiddus I, Winston McAnuff and others with lingering close ups of the musical instruments being played, creating that hypnotic feel as the infectious reggae songs play. The film’s use of a voiceover explained that the artists of Jamaica were originally producing ska music which was transformed by the slower sounds of rocksteady and eventually became reggae. However, we are provided with the insight that the musicians’ music was also influenced by the popular American sounds which were perhaps preferred by some of their reggae labels, at the time, as there are hints of the struggles of being remunerated fairly by such companies.

Indeed, the musicality of Inna de Yard is punctuated by excerpts of the past which subtly unfold with smooth intercuts and the use of the original footage of the historical events is particularly effective. It is also a very moving film, as poignant moments are encountered which touch upon the levels of poverty experienced within the community and the unintended consequences of violence.

We also learn through the various interview excerpts that one of the musicians discovered a traumatic secret about his family’s past! I will avoid describing such scene further so as not to reveal any spoilers but I certainly recommend watching the film to learn more!

Judy Mowatt, also features and seems to have been the prominent female singer during that era, previously a backing vocalist for Bob Marley, and the film alluded to some of her songs being a symbol for female empowerment. Judy is also involved with this new album and it is refreshing to see her collaboration with female artists of the younger generation for whom she is an icon.

Inna de Yard has made me keen to discover more of her music as I found myself swaying to the omnipresent rhythmic beats watching the film and it is obvious, by the directional style, just how much Webber enjoys reggae music. However, the only artist in the film that was initially familiar to me was Ken Boothe! His seminal song, ‘Everything I Own’ must have been played at virtually every formal family occasion that I could recall attending and so it was comforting to see him still performing during the film.

The skilful editing within the film successfully created poetic moments from those slow-motion shots of Cedric Myton smoking a cigarette, with smoke billowing across the screen, to a young boy running through a road with the light streaming. The camerawork is superb with shots panning the main shopping street as well as mesmerising wide angle sunset shots whilst the fishermen are at sea.

It is such snapshots, of life outside of the rehearsals, that provided additional depth to the film as we are given those insights into the toils of the musicians and the impact of their careers on their family members. The pacing of the film may initially seem slow, but it is suitable for a film of this nature, reggae music does have a slower pace, and it does increase at later stages. Continuous sounds of reggae remain throughout the film, even during heart-wrenching scenes of an annual tribute concert which is sensitively managed, and overall Inna de Yard retains a positive feel.

Reggae music is even described as ‘black gold’ by one of the characters and indeed when the artists’ album rehearsals culminate in a tour with a concert at the Trianon Theatre in Paris, it is such a triumph!

Inna de Yard is a captivating film and I certainly felt that I had stumbled upon a cinematic treasure. Unfortunately, it appears that the film may only have a limited UK cinematic release and so you should certainly watch it soon and become immersed in its toe tapping reggae spell!

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