Inna De Yard: The Buena Vista Social Club of reggae

Review: Peter Webber’s documentary is as moving as it is toe-tapping

Inna De Yard brings together reggae veterans for reminiscing and recording

Film Title: Inna De Yard

Director: Peter Webber

Starring: Ken Boothe, Winston McAnuff, Kiddus I, Cedric Myton, The Viceroys, and Judy Mowatt

Genre: Documentary

Running Time: 99 min

Fri, Sep 27, 2019, 05:00


Back in 1996, Wim Wenders’ Buena Vista Social Club made global musical superstars of an ensemble of older Cuban musicians. Inna De Yard, like Wenders’ much-loved doc, brings together reggae veterans for reminiscing and recording. 

As Inna De Yard opens, piano tuner Dennis “Jah D” Fearon tends to an ancient upright that has been visited by rats and ants. It’s a perfect visual cue.

The film has many working parts, revealed in their own hazy time, at once offering a primer in Jamaican music, touching on ska, reggae, rock steady and roots, as well as various lifetimes of personal history, as musicians gather together to “unplugged” record an album on Stony Hill, a bright, verdant spot outside Kingston, beautifully framed by Jodie Arnoux and Bernard Benant. (Inna De Yard features more greenery – in every possible sense – than any film since Snoop Dogg’s Reincarnated.) 

British film-maker Peter Webber (The Girl With a Pearl Earring), who grew up around Notting Hill, has no need to supply a detailed postcolonial history: the music does the talking. As the marvellous Judy Mowatt has it, Jamaica’s history and music are intertwined: “If a man got shot, somebody would sing about it.”

Other stars include Ken Boothe, made famous by the global hit Everything I Own, who speaks tenderly about his long-suffering wife; Winston McAnuff, who wrote the song Malcolm X (“white men get vexed”); Congos leader Cedric Myton, a man with a silky falsetto and 11 children; and Kiddus I, who was cast in 1978 British cult movie Rockers, only to be deported.

They are joined by younger reggae artists, including Derajah and Jah9. The older generation invariably grew up in desperate poverty before rising up alongside international Jamaican superstar Bob Marley.

There are American labels, appearances on Top of the Pops, and sad downturns. McAnuff tearfully recalls the death of his son; Boothe opens up about past drug abuse. 

As moving as it is toe-tapping.