I was introduced to Jamaica by Glynn Turman, an award-winning actor and one of my oldest and dearest friends. We made our first film together in Sweden in 1970. Glynn was the lead actor and I directed. That film was titled A.W.O.L. and it set both our careers in motion.
Some years later, Glynn was approached by investors with ties in Jamaica to shoot a film there. He and I went to scout the Island and it turned into one of the most amazing, confusing and highly spiritual experiences of my life. Together, we wrote Sunsplash, a romantic adventure built around a reggae festival in Ochos Rios that draws fans from all over the world for three days and three nights of music, dancing, ganja and the most fun carnival in the world. In fact, this was the inspiration for the Jubilation Day fiesta that plays a central role in Bashert.
Shooting a film in Jamaica was unlike anything I had ever experienced. The values and the pace of life, rooted in the Bible and Rastafarianism, created a mystical atmosphere that was intoxicating but maddening when it came to getting the work done.
Example: First day of shooting Sunsplash.
We had great light, the cast was rehearsed, and the crew, top flight. But at four o’clock exactly, the Crew Captain blew his whistle and the crew went to the side of the road, pulled out some of the biggest spliffs I had ever seen and lit up. I threw up my hands.
“Whoa! Hold off. We have a half-hour of close ups before we can break.”
The Crew Captain said, “Can’t do dat. It’s ganja time.”
“Take the ganja break an hour later!” I pointed to my director’s view finder. “If we don’t shoot now, we’ll lose the light.”
The Crew Captain laughed. “Lose de light? Dis Jamaica, mon. You can’t lose de light. You can lose your money, you can lose your wife, but you can’t lose de light. De light drift away every night and pop right up in your face de next morning. I guarantee you, mon. You get all de light you need tomorrow.”
The crew lit up and laughed. I was splitting a gut, but I had no choice but to shut down and come back in the morning.
Upshot: When I saw Marion’s edited version of the scene, the lighting matched perfectly and the final product has some of the best production values of any of my films.