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Aml Ameen: 'Idris Elba's like my big brother'

ON SET: Aml Ameen, left, gets direction from Idris Elba

YARDIE REPRESENTS a seminal moment in film making history. Not just because it’s Idris Elba’s directorial debut, but also because few movies will capture a side of British and Jamaican history that pertains to so many people.

The narrative of those who chose to migrate over to the UK during the 1970s and early ‘80s from the Caribbean in order to give them a better opportunity to live a more prosperous life is well known, but rarely captured in the way Yardie does.

Based on the 1992 book by Victor Headley, the film is set in 1970s Kingston, Jamaica and 1980s Hackney, London.

Speaking about his decision to direct the film, Elba said: “Yardie is a story about a young man dealing with the trauma of losing a sibling at the tender age of 10. Victor Headley’s book was one of the few books I read as teenager, I’m not a big reader, so this was a big deal to me at the time and the story stuck to my ribs for many years”.

The movie centres on the life of a young Jamaican man named D (Aml Ameen), who has never fully recovered from the murder, committed during his childhood, of his older brother Jerry Dread (Everaldo Creary).

D grows up under the wing of a Kingston Don and music producer named King Fox (Sheldon Shepherd).

Fox dispatches him to London, where he reconnects with his childhood sweetheart, Yvonne, and his daughter, who he’s not seen since she was a baby.

He also hooks up with a soundclash crew, called High Noon. But before he can be convinced to abandon his life of crime and follow “the righteous path”, he encounters the man who shot his brother 10 years earlier, and embarks on a bloody, explosive quest for retribution – a quest which brings him into conflict with vicious London gangster Rico (Stephen Graham). Ameen’s role as D was a story lived and told by many from that era and if it wasn’t them doing, they knew a person that did.

Being of a generation spawned a little later, Life & Style wondered how easy was it for the LA resident to connect with the plot.

Explaining that he was sold on the role once he’d read the script following a chance meeting with Elba back in 2015, Ameen described the next feeling as daunting, when he realised the scale of the task ahead.

“To know that I was about to tell this story that is basically in essence, outside of the genre that it sits in, the story of my family. Shantol Jackson’s character is essentially my grandmother, our daughter in the movie is essentially my mum. My dad came over here from St Vincent in the eighties and so that sense of responsibility and the fear as well about of how I am going to be able to mould this together, dawned on me,” he said.

Talking about the role, he added: “The book is its own thing. D in the book is almost a completely different guy.

“I remember when I read the initial script I said to Idris could we bring back the essence of darkness and the torment the guy was going through.

“Having read the book and the script I wanted some of those elements, especially as an actor, I wanted some of those cultural elements.

“I wanted to be able to explore that and the truth about what it would have been like to explore that person. I think Idris did a fantastic job of humanising the terminology ‘Yardie’ in the first place. Yardie is not a nice term. If you go to Jamaica they don’t even know what a Yardie is. It’s a term coined by Scotland Yard about Jamaicans who live a nefarious life.


“I feel like what we did with this movie, which so many of my favourite gangster genres do, like Goodfellas, City of God, is try to humanise the experience and give reason as to the ways that D was acting.”

Ameen, keen to deliver a quintessential performance, went to live in Jamaica for two months prior to filming and said he even employed a method acting approach (where you remain in character all the time) to get the job done properly.

He counts the experience as his best so far and had nothing but positivity to offer when asked about working with fellow Brit Elba.

He said: “I felt like I made a friend and I was finally getting to work with my big brother who I had looked up to from the periphery over the years. He invited me into his world and really streamlined a performance before we even got to set.“

If there was one word to sums up the film it would be nostalgic.

The music throughout takes you on such a journey you can’t help but feel transported back to a time when heavy bass-line sitting in your chest, the type of which is an inherent part of black peoples dance and rave culture, was normal.

Nowadays, that kind of thing is the preserve of carnival or a festival. Talking about the importance of music in the movie it wasn’t a surprise to hear the emphasis Elba placed on which tracks his chose for the final cut.

He concluded: “Crafting the music in this film was probably one the most exciting and frustrating parts of making it.

“I love music and I often agonised about the choices I was making and that’s why, in the end it has become one of the strongest parts of the film.”

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