Yardie is the directorial debut film of the British actor turned director Idris Elba. Based on Victor Headley’s 1992 crime novel, the film opens in 1973 Kingston Jamaica, a vibrant setting created by cinematographer John Convoy (Luther). It is a time when gang violence was high and the young pre-teen D (Antwayne Eccleston) witnesses older brother Jerry (Everaldo Creary) shot down at an organised community get together. Jerry wanted the local gangs to unite and the violence to stop but the event ends in his demise. This perpetuates D on his journey of vengeance to find his brother’s killer. Fast forward six years and D (now Aml Ameen) is under the wing of mastermind criminal King Fox (Sheldon Shepherd). The “jobs” he does for King Fox takes him to London on a drug delivery, where he discovers that the man who killed his brother is alive and living in London.
Now a decade later D takes refuge in the house of his “babymother” Yvonne (Shantol Jackson) who left Kingston to avoid the violence years earlier. For Jackson this is her big screen debut and she creates a natural Yvonne, not working too hard to be vulnerable or strong. Aml when speaking about his character at Sundance said. “I spent a year introducing myself to the culture, the accent and the character. I also lived in Jamaica for two months”. The chemistry between the two actors works with Yvonne showing strength in her vulnerability, when D upsets rival gangs she supports him even though she is wholly against his lifestyle. This the “love story” as Idris explains when asked why he was attracted to the film. “It is a love story because of the woman that saved him” he goes further to explain. “The core of the story it is a tragedy, a human story. We have all gone through personal tragedy and we can either dismantle or deal with it”
Indeed, as the “tragedy” is played out on the big screen as D is hell bent on revenge, the UK Yardie story also plays out on the big screen, one might say the violence in the film was relevant to create a realistic picture of the time. In 2003 familiar headlines in the UK media included “Without a Gun You Dead” highlighting the average life of a Yardie as 35. This “gangster” culture arrived in the UK in the eighties prompting Scotland Yard to issue warnings over the increase in armed Jamaican criminals although not all Jamaican criminals were Yardies or identified themselves as such. Aml is a believable D creating this angry, disruptive violent character that cannot escape his own demon’s or the “dopey” that follows him”. You can’t feel sorry for him, but you understand his pain and vulnerability that motive his actions. This is a gangster movie.
At the end of the film when finally, D gets his brother’s murderer, the picture painted of the family man is hard to digest. Yes, people change but can Denis really escape the only life he knew, maybe Aml just played the role really well. As a director Idris Elba succeeded in telling a story which can be dubbed as controversial, with a sound script and cast and a hand-picked soundtrack he says, “as storytellers we wanted people to relate from a personal point of view to the music, narrative and the empathy”. He praised Sundance for supporting the film by saying. “It is a very special film festival and Sundance has been instrumental in debuting some very major films and I feel special to be here”.
When asked what it means to be a director the talented Londoner replied. “It is the pinnacle of my career. I have worked as an actor for a long time. it is a moment of leadership. The next generation can take a leaf out of my book and say we can get that done. If you can dream it, you can do it and here I am living the dream helping the next generation of writers and directors”.