Words by Eddie STATS, Photos by Kevin Ornelas—
Yesterday evening inside New York’s renowned Lincoln Center, LargeUp was proud to be the media sponsor of the East Coast premiere of Storm Saulter’s award-winning film Better Mus’ Come, presented by ImageNation Cinema Foundation and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Having played at Los Angeles’ Pan-African Film Festival just a few days before, it was only the second stateside screening of the feature–generally recognized as the toughest film out of Jamaica since The Harder They Come.
In addition to bringing Mr. Vegas through for a reprise of his brilliant acoustic set at Miss Lily’s Variety, LargeUp editor and dancehall intellectual Sherman Escoffery joined Saulter, female lead Nicole “Sky” Grey as well as Carl Williams, who plays a duplicitous politician in the film’s early scenes, onstage for a wide-ranging conversation after the end of the film, moderated by Moikgantsi Kgama of Imagenation, the event organizer responsible for putting the whole thing together. Veteran actor Roger Guenveur Smith (Malcolm X, Do the Right Thing)–who plays the part of a Michael Manley-like Prime Minister–took a quick break from giving his infant son a bath to join the discussion via Skype.
The Walter Reade Theater was filled to capacity and then some and latecomers (including myself) were forced to sit in the aisles and stairwells or simply lean against a convenient wall for the standing-room only screening. But the roadblock seating arrangements, combined with Vegas’ star presence and a rousing introduction from radio legend Dahved Levy all contributed to a palpable sense of being at an event–a happening–as opposed to just seeing a film. One of the highlights of the evening came when lead actor Sheldon Shepherd (Ricky)–joined by a visibly-blazed costar Everaldo Cleary (Shortman)–also skyped in from Jamaica and wowed the audience with a spontaneous performance of the dub poem that served as his audition for the film.
Of the film itself, we can’t say much without spoiling for our readers the pleasure of seeing it themselves–except that the experience of seeing it on a big screen clearly exceeded the already high expectations of the audience. Whatever accolades the future holds for this film and it’s director the alarm was definitely rung last night–the NY film world will be checking for Saulter, Caribbean cinema and Better Mus’ Come.