Ask most Jamaicans what their best local movie is and they would say the 1972 crime film The Harder They Come. Ask most Trinidadians the same question and you would get a variety of answers or some conspicuous head scratching. But ask those in the know about TT or Caribbean film and you are most likely to hear one word – Bim.
The 1974 crime drama directed by Hugh A. Robertson tells the story of Bheem Singh aka Bim, an Indo-Trinidadian boy whose trade unionist father is brutally murdered at a wedding. After he suffers bullying at school and an abusive uncle Bheem runs away to the streets and begins a violent life of crime.
The movie is carried by a mesmerising performance from Ralph Maraj as the title character. Bim is a violent, self-serving and at times merciless man. There is a line where he says “Right now I could sleep with a woman or kill a man” that encapsulates his almost bestial nature. Think of Bim as a Trini Scarface without the mountains of cocaine snorting. But Maraj still imbues Bim with a beautiful pathos that makes his descent into darkness all the more impactful.
Maraj is ably supported by a strong cast that includes Wilbur Holder as Bim’s ally Wabham and Grace Maharaj as Bim’s aunt Babsie. The plot, written by Raoul Pantin, is masterfully crafted and delves into deeper issues such as racism, colonialism, politics and identity. The music of the film by the late Andre Tanker is a fantastic mix of African and Indian rhythms, and that title track will stay with you for life. For life I say!
The shocking violence and one scene of attempted rape may have been too much for 1975 audiences/censors and the film never received a very wide release. A somewhat degraded version is available on YouTube (see link below) but even with the low quality video and audio the brilliance of Bim still shines through. For any fan of Caribbean film or just crime dramas you have to include this seminal cult classic on your watch list. And if you happen to be in Trinidad the film will be airing on June 6 at 7pm at the St James Amphitheatre for We Beat’s We Film Night. I’ll hold a seat for you.
For my review of The Harder They Come you can click here.