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Born in Trench Town

Born in Trench Town

Born in Trench Town

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New Jamaican Documentary.

The history of modern Jamaica is the history of Trench Town. Its “government yards” were both the model of a young nation’s aspirations for civil society and the origin of political violence that spread throughout the country.

Born in Trench TownMany films have been made that tell aspects of Trench Town's history, most of them tracing the early life of reggae legend Bob Marley and other musical icons who lived there at a fruitful flowering of Jamaican culture. This film touches only briefly on that history. Instead, 'Born in Trench Town' is a documentary that weaves together social, architectural, and political histories, allowing residents of Trench Town to tell their own stories. For younger generations who did not know the community before violence started, perceptions and life are markedly different. This film fills the knowledge gap.

Directed by Greg Pond, assistant Professor of Art at the University of the South, Tennesee, the video traverses from First to Seventh Street through the maze of holes in the walls that separate the yards, created in the violent years when it was too dangerous to walk on the streets. It's the first time a film on Trench Town has provided this intimate view, beginning with a perspective that reveals Trench Town as originally a highly-designed community built by architects and town planners around a modern version of an African village compound. Small living quarters with shared courtyards fostered the musical and cultural heritage for which Jamaica is known and Trench Town was a model for lower income housing with Utopian aspirations for a nation on the verge of Independence.

The same Independence brought a desire for greater political power, and other housing was built to increase the numbers of supporters of whichever party was in power. The role of the buildings changed from a model that supported the people who lived there, to one that supported those in power, and the once-communal atmosphere became divided on partisan lines. Gun violence started in the mid-1970s and continues today through gangs and power structures connected to the highest levels of government.

'Born in Trench Town' provides this history for the first time in film, allowing people who have lived there all their lives to tell of life before, during and in the urban decay the neighbourhood has now become. Their stories give glimpses of the past and follow its transition into the Trench Town of today. It's not a pretty story and the condition today is perhaps best expressed by a very serious young woman, baby suckling on her breast, who tells of becoming self-supporting from age 9 years, the shocking life she has lived since then to survive, and what must be done to prevent more life stories like hers happening in Trench Town. The residents who live and have lived in the buildings, tell the graphic story.

A positive aspect of this film is that is researched by Jamaican architect Christopher Whyms-Stone, author of the papers 'A Residential Arrangement: The usefulness of the Tenement Yard in the Design of Social Housing' and 'Government Yards of Trench Town', and produced by Dixon Myers, Co-ordinator of Outreach at Swanee, the University of the South,  who have both dedicated many years to rebuilding Trench Town. It is this architectural perspective that has given 'Born in Trench Town' its unique place among the many films made about this culturally and politically important Jamaican community. 

Already shown at the One Love Reggae Festival in Kent, UK, the film is scheduled for screenings in Jamaica, the USA and Europe, as well as selected film festivals.

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