Peter Webber, a white man from west London best known for 2003’s literary-historical romance ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ does not, on paper, seem like a natural fit to document a revival of Jamaican reggae musicians. It is a credit to his seemingly pure-hearted love of the scene that he steps out of the way, serving as an archivist for Ken Boothe, Kiddus I, Winston McAnuff, Cedric Myton and Judy Mowatt, who tell their own stories in their own words, as they go about life and music-making in the rickety tropical paradise of Stony Hill in the St Andrew parish of Jamaica.
‘Inna de Yard’ won’t win awards for formal experimentation. Taking care not to overstate his presence, Webber resorts to tried-and-tested documentary formats: talking heads, locations captured in tracking shots, fly-on-the-wall footage of recording sessions. As his camera checks in with these musicians in the days leading up to their reunion tour, ‘Inna de Yard’ becomes more like a concert movie, with a spine of cultural history, than a narrative documentary.
But it’s a concert movie with heart because ample space is given over for each of these men (and one woman!) to recount memories of lives full of incident. There have been tragedies, like the death of a child in senseless local violence, and oodles of love and labours lost. Yet the over-riding tone lies in the philosophical lyrics and inviting rhythms of reggae music, whose lapping sound waves engulf you as warmly as the sun-kissed Caribbean.