Saturday, July 23, 2005

One’s love for the joys of Jamaica
22 July 2005
Producer returns to familiar territory to make a film that captures the feel-good factor of the Caribbean, writes Bridget Galton

YVONNE Deutschman was 15 when her parents moved to Jamaica. It was the early 70s and Bob Marley's pulsating reggae beats were taking the music world by storm.

Her formative decade in the birthplace of reggae was an exciting round of music, parties and optimism borne out of Marley's Rastafarian values of peace and love.

Those years left a lasting impression on the white English girl, who left the Caribbean island aged 25 to attend film school in Britain.

Now she has returned to the foothills of Jamaica's blue mountains as co-producer of One Love, a film starring one of Marley's 11 offspring - Ky-mani.

Ms Deutschman, who lives in Belsize Avenue, Belsize Park, said: "My teenage years were a fantastic time. The whole reggae scene was exploding and there was music absolutely everywhere, all the best bands playing at parties in hotels and houses. There was so much optimism and hope for the future."

Deutschman dreamed up the story for One Love - a musical set in the 70s about a Rastafarian reggae singer who falls for a Christian gospel singer - in the hope of rehabilitating Jamaica's recent image.

"Because of the economy they have had a couple of tough decades and I wanted to get away from the negative stereotypes about guns and violence and recapture that positive spirit I knew when I lived there."

She continued: "99.9 per cent of Jamaicans are ordinary, law abiding, warm people yet there is this lack of wholesome role models that ordinary people can identify with. Black actors usually play bad guys, pimps or prostitutes but this is a feel-good family film that captures the beauty and exotic nature of Jamaica - there is not a ghetto in sight."

Deutschman, who worked for years at the BBC directing programmes as varied as Antiques Roadshow and Casualty, says the film has proved equally popular with black and white audiences: "It transcends colour. It is a real crossover film."

She conceived the idea for One Love years ago, but unable to secure funding, she turned the story into a stage musical and set up a training project in Bristol - teaching performance skills to unemployed youths over six months - then touring the show throughout Britain, Germany, Kenya and Jamaica.

She finally got money from the UK Film Council to make her One Love, which was hailed as "the best Jamaican film ever" and played for 12 weeks in all seven cinemas on the island with every Jamaican seeing it twice.

Deutschman says Jamaica is now picking itself back up and is glad to see the old colonial attitude of "everyone has their place" replaced by a more entrepreneurial spirit.

"Jamaicans are highly inventive. They developed reggae from their take on the swing, be-bop and RnB records they heard from America and they came up with the language that the youth use today, words like 'wicked' and 'chill'," she says.

With the BBC, Deutschman also made landmark cultural documentaries about the ethnic minorities and was the series creator of Ebony - the first Afro Caribbean series on British TV.

She says in the past she has been criticised as a white woman making black films - with distrust from both sides.

"When people see that I really believe what I am doing, it's hard to criticise. I have lived in Jamaica, half my friends are black and half white. I live in a multicultural world and I enjoy the best of both cultures.

"When I came to England I realised there wasn't a voice for the black people in this country and as a communicator there were stories and voices I had the means of channelling and putting out on TV, creating opportunities for people to speak."

She says Marley's son, who has released several records of his own, auditioned for the lead role - a Bob Marley-type character - and was easily the best actor for the job.

"He has a natural charisma, he is a Rasta and obviously looks and sounds like his dad. He totally identified with the story that had happened in his own life. In fact Rita Marley said that was her story with Bob because she was a gospel singer."

Deutschman is returning to Jamaica for her next project - "a romantic thriller that's a cross between Gone With The Wind and Angel Heart, Jamaica-style."

o One Love is out in selected cinemas this month.

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