"The Harder They Come"

(1972 film, Perry Henzell, director)

Transcribed by Peter L. Patrick


This is my transcript of the first five minutes of dialogue in the film. A classic representation of a Jamaican country-boy coming to town and being gradually transformed into an urban vernacular hero, the film is loosely based on the folk legend of Rhygin, an outlaw from the era of British domination. Jimmy Cliff, the reggae singer, stars as Ivan. I also have some oral accounts of Rhygin which will soon be available here

(Opening scene. A "country bus" drives fast along winding rural roads, approaching Kingston, the capital. There's a near-crash with a truck in the middle of a bridge. Brakes screech. Passengers talk.)

Man in T-shirt:

A wa dat sista?


What's that sister?


Bos crash op oot dere yu nuo.


(The) bus crashed up out there y' know.

Man in T-shirt:

Wuol an jraiva! Duon muuv.


Hold on driver! Don't move.


(A moment later...)

Male Passenger:

Yu kyari a lovli mango fram konchri man, y'av eni muor?


You brought a lovely mango from the country, man, you have any more?


.... Teykin dis far mi modda yu nuo


.... (I’m) takin' this for me mother, you know.

Male Passenger:

Put it op.


Put it away.

(…The bus stops in Kingston's main marketplace. Ivan gets off with all his boxes and plunges into the traffic. A boy with a pushcart almost runs into him, blows his horn and yells at him for being a country bumpkin:)

Pushcart Boy:

Ey, konchri bwai! Kom oota i wie man, muuv aaf!


Hey, country boy! Come outa the way man, move off!


Wiet a minit man, yu nuo di wie tu Milk Lien?


Wait a minute man, you know the way to Milk Lane?

Pushcart Boy:

Yu av moni? If y'av moni yu go eniwie, yu nuo!

Bot if yu no av moni yu faat! A beta yu stie uom.


You have money? If you have money you go anywhere, you know!

But if you don't have money you're screwed! It's better you stay home.


Arait den, hoo moch?


Alright then, how much?

Pushcart Boy:

Gi mi fifti sens an elp mi push.


Give me fifty cents and help me push.

(Ivan almost pushes the cart through a red light into oncoming traffic.)

Pushcart Boy:

Ey! Yu no sii red lait pard, da miin stap yu nuo.

Das wai unu konchri bwai alwiez kom a tong kom get ded.


Hey! Don't you see the red light partner, that means stop, you know.

That's why you country boys always come to town and get killed.

(He gestures and shouts at a fellow pushcart boy across the busy, noisy intersection.)

Pushcart Boy:

Waapm Winstan!


What's up, Winston!

(to Ivan:)

Yu nuo oo lang dat bitch uo mi moni?

Im naa dadj mi tidie, yu no.


Y'know how long that bitch has owed me money?

He isn't gonna dodge me today, you know.

(to Winston:)

Ey! Gi di man di moni, y'ier sa!


Hey! Give the man the money, you hear sir!

(to Ivan:)

G'wafta im, man, g'wafta im, g'wafta im.


Go after him, man, go after him, go after him.

(Ivan crosses the intersection, begins talking to other boy who shrugs & points back across street.)


Ey, di gai uova de-so sen mi far iz moni.

Im se yu av di moni, man. ... We iz da gai nou?


Hey, the guy over there sent me for his money.

He says you have the money, man. Where is the guy now? ...

(Ivan looks over and sees the first pushcart boy hurrying away with all his belongings on the cart.)


Kom bak iyr man! Pudong i tingz man!

Kom bak iyr man! Uol an man!


Come back here man! Put down the things man!

Come back here man! Hold on man!

(… Evening has fallen. A tired Ivan approaches an outdoors domino game in a ghetto street.)

Domino Player:

Kom an schar! Wa da? Oo moch y'av? Tuu-- oo yu stie paadna?


Come on star! What’s that? How much y'have? Two-- how you stay, pardner?


Yu nuo if dis liedi liv roon iyr?


You know if this lady lives around here?

Domino Player:

Ova da yaad de. (points)

Mai plie? [Yee] Wel mi jraa! (slaps down winning hand)


Over that yard there.

My play? [yeh] Well I draw!

[That's only the beginning of this first Jamaican-written, -directed and -acted feature film, which is full of authentic and vital reflections of Jamaican life and language in the early 1970s, and highly entertaining besides… Check out your local video store -- as well as Michael Thelwell's fine book of the movie (written afterwards), and Perry Henzell's other works, such as the novel Power Game.]