Cast & Crew
Kristina St Clair
A young American couple crash-lands their plane in Jamaica. A fisherman rescues them and leads them away from the authorities, who have fabricated a story about the plane, involving drug and arms smuggling by the CIA, to gain popularity in an upcoming election.
Kristina St Clair
Lucien Tai Ten Quee
Rebop Kwaku Baah
Rebop Kwaku Baah
John Victor Smith
That actor became famous a decade before Jobson's movie reached the screen, appearing on the cover of Rolling Stone to illustrate a 1973 article titled "The Wild Side of Paradise," an exploration of Rastafarian lifestyles and culture. According to the article, where he's called Cunchyman, he "lives like a wild animal on a beautiful stretch of deserted paradise miles from anywhere, and nobody can touch him." He is completely contented because he has "rejected rejection" by embracing a cheerfully rustic existence where only his family, his friends, and the basic necessities have any meaning for him. "He gets a good laugh out of everything," the article adds, quoting the Rasta greeting he gives everyone he meets: "Peace and love."
That's surely a romanticized view of the actor, and while there's a certain amount of peace and love in Jobson's movie, there's also lots of scheming and hostility carried on by characters around the hero. That said, the film's fictional Countryman is even more idealized than the article's real-life Countryman, endowed with religious powers that inject a dose of mysticism into the narrative. Still, the main thrust of the film is more political than supernatural, with a corrupt military leader sending his emissaries to track down Countryman and some American refugees - the leader claims they're CIA operatives, although they're really just marijuana smugglers - as a way of discrediting the opposition in the lead-up to a hard-fought national election. Along with these intriguing machinations Jobson fills the screen with lush Jamaican landscapes, scenes of running, chasing, and hiding, and occasional moments of relaxation when eating, drinking, smoking, and perhaps a cockfight (regrettable, but shown with relative restraint) are the only things on anyone's mind.
The first filmmaker to discover Countryman as an actor was Perry Henzell, whose drugs-and-reggae drama The Harder They Come had opened in 1972. He cast the first-time actor in his follow-up production, No Place Like Home, which succumbed to financing problems and went uncompleted until its belated premiere in 2006. The next filmmaker to give the actor a role was Jobson, a former manager of reggae superstar Bob Marley, who died the year before Countryman opened and to whom the film is dedicated. An obituary for Countryman, who died in 2016 at age 70, quotes Countryman producer Chris Blackwell as saying that the barely known actor got the lead role "because you could never find a movie star who could wrestle with alligators and run through swamps the way he did."
The film's rural settings notwithstanding, Countryman himself originally hailed from the city of Kingston, although he spent much of his life in the kind of roughhewn environments captured by Dominique Chapuis's camera. His ethnicity was said to be three-quarters Indian and one-quarter African and becoming an icon for Jamaica and the Rastafari movement seemed entirely natural for him - certainly more natural than inhabiting the film festival circuit, which he did when Countryman played at Cannes, where he reportedly walked into screenings wearing only a bathing suit.
Not surprisingly for a movie by Jobson, the music of Countryman is heavy on reggae by Bob Marley and the Wailers, with numerous other artists (including major figures like Toots & The Maytals, Lee "Scratch" Perry, and Wally Badarou among them) filling out the soundtrack, Countryman has been called both a B movie and an arthouse attraction, and both designations fit quite well. Stronger on vivid atmosphere than coherent plot, it's a unique picture with a one-of-a-kind star.
Director: Dickie Jobson
Producer: Chris Blackwell
Screenplay: Dickie Jobson and Michael Thomas
Cinematographer: Dominique Chapuis
Film Editing: Peter Boyle and John Victor Smith
Art Direction: Bernard Léonard
Music: Wally Badarou
Cast: Countryman (Countryman), Hiram Keller (Bobby Lloyd), Carl Bradshaw (Captain Benchley), Basil Keane (Colonel Sinclair), Freshey Richardson (Mosman), Kristina St. Clair (Beau Porter), Jahman (Jahman), Papa Threecards (Sadu Baba), Munair Zacca (Periera), Dee Anthony (Mr. Porter), Ronnie McKay (Wax), Claudia Robinson (Woman in White), Ronald Gossop (Biker), Oliver Samuels (Pillion), Chin (Fish Vendor)
By David Sterritt
Released in United States 1982