Deborah A. Thomas, John L. Jackson, Jr., Junior "Gabu" Wedderburn | Bad Friday:  Rastafari After Coral Gardens

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Bad Friday: Rastafari After Coral Gardens

by Deborah A. Thomas, John L. Jackson, Jr., Junior "Gabu" Wedderburn

BAD FRIDAY chronicles the history of violence in Jamaica through the eyes of its most iconic community – Rastafari – and shows how people use their recollections of the Coral Gardens “incident” in 1963 to imagine new possibilities for the future.
Genre: Reggae: Roots Reggae
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1. Bad Friday: Rastafari After Coral Gardens
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Album Notes
For many around the world, Jamaica conjures up images of pristine beach vacations with a pulsating reggae soundtrack. The country, however, also has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world, and the population is actively grappling with legacies of Western imperialism, racial slavery, and political nationalism – the historical foundations of contemporary violence in Jamaica and throughout the Americas. BAD FRIDAY focuses on a community of Rastafarians in western Jamaica who annually commemorate the 1963 Coral Gardens “incident,” a moment just after independence when the Jamaican government rounded up, jailed and tortured hundreds of Rastafarians. It chronicles the history of violence in Jamaica through the eyes of its most iconic community, and shows how people use their recollections of past traumas to imagine new possibilities for a collective future.


to write a review

Sarah Saffari

Roland ANTH 1115
On Friday, April 2nd of each year, Rastafarians come together to remember the injustice committed against them back in 1963. This day is known as ‘Black Friday.’ From the directing talents of Deborah A. Thomas, John L. Jackson, Junior “Gabu” Wedderburn, and Junior “Ista J” Manning, comes a poignant documentary that sheds lights on Rastafarianism and the evolution of the movement. The elders interviewed in the film exemplify the colorful culture, social practices, and religious aspects of Rastafarianism.
As I listened to the testimonials of a range of Rastafarians, I noted their unique dialect and long dreadlocks. They explained how the government during the time of the Coral Gardens incident punished these social norms that are so dear to them. During the time of the Coral Gardens incident, officers cut off Rastafarians’ dreadlocks, a symbol of wisdom, and forced these people to flee into the mountains where they would no longer be a “threat” to society. The attack was a result of an incident where supposed Rastas killed two police officers in response to the death of Rudolph Franklin, a prominent Rastafarian at the time. The government viewed Rastas as a black mark upon their country, however the movement was sorely misunderstood.
Men and women Rastafarians alike, thoughtfully and powerfully explain throughout their interviews what Rasta is about. They elaborate on their peaceful ways and transcending spirituality. Today, they ask for a formal apology for the persecution committed against them in 1963. The film ends to melodic and steady Reggae music, unique of the Rastafari movement. The Rastafarians’ faces are powerful, and represent the long history they come from.

Jeffrey Tenenbaum

Bad Friday Review anth 1115
Bad Friday gives the account of the Coral Gardens incident through the eyes of some Rastafarian elders who were persecuted. It gave a great overview of Jamaica’s political turmoil, and the hardship that the Rastafarian people went through during the time of the incident.
I feel that Dr. Thomas did a great job of having the majority of the account being from eyewitnesses, or primary sources. Having a first person account helps the viewer feel as connected to the event as possible.
On the contrary, at times the film was beginning to become harder to understand as the situation going on and the eyewitness testimony did not always add up to me.
Overall, it was an amazing film that was very informative. I would recommend to anyone especially if you have particular interest in Caribbean history and culture.

Kali Kisch

Bad Friday
The movie Bad Friday is an incredible movie about the Coral Garden incident in Jamaica in 1963. The 63-minute movie depicts the period before the outbreak, during the fighting, and the lingering effects, mostly in the words of Rasta elders who experienced that day. Imbedded into the documentary there are interviews with academic professors to give their take on the situation as well as children of the victims who firsthand experienced Bad Friday to discuss the present day condition.

The film highlights the beautiful parts of Jamaica but it dives much deeper into the more difficult parts of their history that tourists would never see. I found it fascinating to hear from the natives who describe the tension building up between Rastafarians and police. They give numerous examples of when police pushed the boundaries of their authority and Rastafarians went too far as revenge. These examples include the police cutting the hair locks, shaving the beards, or chopping the crops of Rastafarians to try and put them in their place. As the movie shows, it only fuels the fire more for these rebels. Additionally, the movie explains the roles of various iconic figures in that time, including a man named Rudolph who worked at Coral Gardens and went against the police for their violence. Not only are the people described but also the places. The film includes archival footage and historic photographs which illustrate the long history of persecution among Rastafarians.

The collection of images, video and interviews shows how Jamaica has transitioned through time around the Coral Garden incident. The interviews include subtitles and narration is present during the movie to help guide the information. Overall, Bad Friday is a sensational film that brings the viewer right into Jamaica to understand just how much build up there was to that day and how much the incident effected the lives of so many Jamaicans. Definitely a must see!

Alexa Stein

Bad Friday Film Review
The film Bad Friday: Rastafari After Coral Gardens was produced by Deborah A. Thomas in 2011. It is a documentary of the lives of many Rasta people in Jamaica. The people in the documentary were asked questions about the “incident” of Coral Gardens and they all portrayed how they were demonized and persecuted by the Jamaican government. Rasta was considered a species in Jamaica. They were alienated in their own country. Their hair being in dreadlocks classified them as Rasta. It was told that they would shoot a Rasta looking man because he was the “enemy” and they would shoot them because they looked like that. It was horrible to see how the Rastafarian community was treated by their own country but the film brought those stories to life in honor of those Rastas that suffered.
Overall the film was informative and interesting. The way the interviews were mixed and the stories were told made the story very heartfelt. They were first hand experiences that could only be told by the primary suspect. It made you want to learn more about the people and what they went through. It was a little hard to understand some of the people in the interviews but the captions helped. The only thing that was a little hard to understand were the series of events in which the events occurred. I had not prior knowledge of Bad Friday so to learn about it for the first time through this film made it a little tough to understand.

John Nyvold

Bad Friday
Bad Friday sheds light on an important and often overlooked event in Jamaica’s history. Bad Friday examines the history of the 1963 Coral Gardens incident where many Rastafarians were persecuted by the government. Rastafarian culture is often seen in the mainstream of everyday life in Jamaica and has been publicized by famous people like Bob Marley. People often only associate Rastafarians with their red, green, and gold colors, reggae music, and ganja. Some fail to see what Rastafarianism really stands for and the adversity Rastafarians have faced.
Bad Friday shows a very different side to the Rastafarian culture that is often overlooked. The film includes many interviews with Rastafarians and shows how they feel they have been treated in regards to the Coral Gardens incident. Many of the people are still very upset about the incident and the history of how Rastas have been treated by the government. Watching the interviews is sometimes hard to understand with the thick accents, but these elder Rastafarians give a deep understanding of how the Coral Gardens incident affected the Rasta culture in their actual lives. The movie does a great job of showing that Rasta is truly a way of life and like other cultures, has not always been accepted. Bad Friday transcends the Rasta culture and shows how governments around the world can target and discriminate against a group of people. Overall, the movie gives an accurate account of the Coral Gardens incident and how it has affected the Rastafarian way of life.

Timur Iskandarov

Bad Friday 1115
When I think of Jamaica, I think of beautiful beaches and reggae music. However, many people, including me, don’t know that Jamaica has one of the highest murder rates in the world. The Bad Friday movie describes what led to this. The movie focused on the Rastafarian community during 1963, a year after Jamaican independence in 1962. There was an incident between Rastafarians and police in the Coral Gardens. It also shows how police were acting brutally against the Rastafarian community. They were arrested, tortured, and even murdered. The government was cracking down on Rastas and they wanted to bring them down at any price. This incident was caused when a group of Rastafarians allegedly killed two cops.
This movie is mostly constructed of survivors and witnesses of those events. They share their personal and touching stories. There are not so many sources of these events out there. I personally never knew about this brutality in the region. I highly recommend to watch this film.

Jack Azar

Bad Friday ANTH 1115
Bad Friday was a documentary film about the rise of Rastafarians in Jamaica. Throughout the film, many important dates, people, and significant event were highlighted. Interviews of living Rastafarians were conducted throughout the film. The beginning of the documentary includes many specific events that lead to the event known as bad Friday. Bad Friday was a series of events after Coral Gardens in 1963. This film revealed the hardships that the original Rastafarians had to endure when there ways of life were once heavily persecuted by the police and government. These brutalities that these Rastafarians lived through harsh, so harsh that that many have proposed that retributions should be made by the government to those who were harmed.
The film was shot mostly through interviews in an observational manner. In these interviews those who were directly affected by the events in Coral Gardens told stories. I felt that most of the moving material in this documentary derived from the testimonial of personal experiences from the living Rastafarians. Many times the older male and female Rastafarians were difficult to understand. At the most difficult times, subtitles were used accordingly. Reading the subtitles actually helped understand what they were saying despite the thick Creole accent.

Cory Ketai

As a student studying the Caribbean I had some great things to say about the film along with some negative things.
On the positive side of things, I really appreciated how the film was taken from so many first hand sources. The film has a seemingly endless supply of interviews with Jamaican’s who first hand lived through the event and can give explicit details of which they experienced themselves, there’s not many films that do that now-a-days. I also greatly enjoyed that Dr. Deborah Thomas was so engaged with the people and the community, it really attributed to both the legitimacy of the film and seemed to make the interviewees much more settled with sharing there stories and really share all of what they had to say.
On the other hand, I thought the film was a little vague and confusing as to exactly what the event was that occurred and heavier in the details of the event it’s self. It made it a little difficult to follow and coordinate what the interviewees were talking about since it was in a bit of a blurry context. This made it difficult to keep up with the different stories in the film.
In all, I thought it was a very good film and one that you could really learn from being that the majority of the information provided was from a primary source.

Adam Steinberg

Bad Friday Review-Anth 1115
I felt the film Bad Friday showed important truth about the history of Jamaica, especially Rastafarianism. It displayed the events in 1963 in Coral Gardens, Jamaica where hundreds of Rasta’s were rounded up, jailed, and tortured from orders of the country’s government. This film showed the reality of oppression and social injustice that many Rasta’s throughout the country experienced. The film was documented through first-hand accounts of the real Rasta’s who bore the oppression and violence. It was live evidence of the state violence against an entire community with the powerful government forces showing no mercy or remorse for its Rasta citizens.
The one critique I have of Bad Friday is its layout. Unless you have studied or researched the history of Jamaica, the events that occurred in Coral Gardens appear foreign. I had no previous knowledge of the oppression forced on Rasta’s, due to the prime minister giving orders to “Bring in all Rasta’s, dead or alive.” This event has stayed latent in media and our everyday world. I felt the movie did not provide a sufficient background of the events in the beginning of the film, which made it sometimes challenging to follow individuals’ stories and the events being discussed.
Overall though, I felt the movie was educational and eye opening on the history of the orthodox Rasta’s and the oppression they faced. Bad Friday illustrated the significance behind the Rastafarian movement and values and gave us viewers an insight on how this event has helped to shape Jamaica’s post-colonial identity. I would recommend this film to anyone interested in Jamaica, Rastafarianism, oppression, or anyone looking for an entertaining documentary.

Kevin Murphy

Bad Friday: Rastafari After Coral Gardens Review
Bad Friday: Rastafari After Coral Gardens, produced by Deborah A. Thomas, is about Rastafarianism and the hardships that Rastafarians have faced from the government of Jamaica. In Bad Friday: Rastafari After Coral Gardens, Thomas interviews Rastafarians who suffered through Bad Friday, when the Jamaican government took Rastafarians at Coral Gardens, imprisoned and abused them. The reason that the film is a terrific insight on Bad Friday is due to the fact that people who lived through the event can give us first-person perception of the event, giving us details that a textbook or journal never could.
Bad Friday occurred on April 11, 1963 when a group of men burned down a gas station and killed two policeman in order to get revenge for the death of Rudolph Franklin. The men, believed to be Rastafarians, caused the disaster to begin. The leader of Jamaica, Bustamante, declared that he wanted all of the Rastafarians imprisoned or killed leading to immediate havoc. Bad Friday: Rastafari After Coral Gardens shows all of this in detail and gives the insights of those who lived through this terrible day in history. Thomas does a terrific job of showing how Bad Friday destroyed the Rastafarian community in Jamaica and how the Rastafarians responded from the event.
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