“KINGSTON PARADISE”— People and Poverty


.People and Poverty

Amos Lassen

Rocksy (Christopher “Johnny” Daley) is a small-time hustler who enters the world of  chaos as he steals a car while his lady friend Rosie (Camille Small) hangs a watercolor painting in their modest room. She dreams of peace. They fight to survive their broken dreams and their hopes and aspirations force them to committing a crime that changes their lives forever. Shot on the streets of Kingston where poverty, beauty and desperation come together, this Jamaican story transcends its locale and is a universal story of people whose poverty trap them in a life where reckless acts seem to be the only road to an elusive better life.

“Kingston Paradise” is a beautiful, off-beat urban drama that takes us into the lives of its characters and their journey.  In a very simple plot and somewhat familiar, the story and characters reflect a uniqueness of contemporary chaos in urban spaces. We look at the desperate choices we continue to make as we explore the broken dreams and aspirations of youth through the use of humor and pathos, making the film a poignant and powerful drama.  As a result, the film does not glorify social injustice, hustlers and angst but rather it feels deeply for the people. Director Mary Wells tells us that this was a chief motivating factor in making this movie.  She wanted to tell a very meaningful universal story about everyday characters and their simple yet complicated lives.  Using watercolor painting as a metaphor that is pastoral, we get a quintessential Caribbean view juxtaposed against a harsh urban story.  This film shows the reality and struggles and the only alternative is to rise above it, but the lead character doesn’t do so until it’s too late.

Writer and director Mary Wells gives us a Jamaican film that is not the typical Jamaican movie. “Kingston Paradise” has moved from the norms and stigmas that people generally affix to movies coming out of Jamaica to something spectacular and refreshing. It is an unpretentious, fun, serious, off-beat tale that truly inspires. Kingston Paradise is simply and basically about a man and a woman who dream of leaving the Ghetto. It speaks to the many challenges inner city people face as it explores fairness, mistakes, forgiveness and loyalty.

Life on the streets of Kingston, Jamaica is about frantic survival for small-time hustler Rocksy—a taxi driver/part-time pimp—and Rosie, a prostitute, his roomie and business investment. They dream of something different, another life with a future. With his friend and cohort Malt (Greggory Nelson), Rocksy eyes a fancy sports car nearby and together they devise a plot to steal it to sell for parts.

The car belongs to a local Lebanese businessman, Faris (Paul Shoucair) and they figure the money could change their lives immediately, but of course it’s only temporarily. Rosie is dead set against it and fed up. She dreams for the beach view and she wants out of the ghetto. But she’s bait and Rocksy cannot manage without her. When she finally leaves, Rocksy becomes even more desperate and devastated. He does the unthinkable. In the context and contrasts of the Jamaican landscape its backstory is political.

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