Sunday, 24 May 2020

No Time To Die in the Gleaner

Back in 2013, during the 40th anniversary of the release of Live and Let Die (1973), I trawled through the archives of the Gleaner, probably Jamaica's best-known newspaper which James Bond reads from time to time in the novels, to find out how the newspaper covered the filming of Roger Moore's first Bond film, much of which was set on the island. 

The previous year, I delved into the Gleaner's archives to find out how the paper covered the filming of Sean Connery's first outing as Bond, Dr No (1962).  

Last year, Eon Productions returned to Jamaica to begin filming on Daniel Craig's final Bond effort (probably), No Time To Die. How did the coverage compare with that for Live and Let Die and Dr No? Did the presence of the film crew generate as much interest? Did James Bond still have a place in Jamaica's cultural environment? Once again, I took a look through the archives. 

The day after Eon's press conference to at Ian Fleming's former winter home, Goldeneye, James Bond was on the front page of the Gleaner on 26th April 2019. '007 comes home', ran the headline, with the article beginning with the familiar phrase: 'We've been expecting you, Mr Bond.' There was more inside the paper, with the item about the event taking up almost half a page. Apart from reporting what was revealed at the press conference, the article focused on the impact that the filming would have on the local economy; it was expected, the paper reported, that the filming would be mean employment for nearly a thousand Jamaicans, gaining work as extras, film crew and in support services, such as accommodation and transportation.

The Gleaner, 26th April 2019
The following day, the Gleaner published another photo of the launch event, this time of Daniel Craig, Naomi Harris and director Cary Joji Fukunaga being interviewed. 

In its entertainment pages on 15th May 2019, the Gleaner reported that Daniel Craig had been injured during filming in Portland at the eastern end of the island. The paper's coveraged remained positive, however, stating that such injuries are par for the course. The article also spoke to Jamaican radio celebrity Nikki Z, who, it was reported, might share some screentime with Daniel Craig in the film. Recounting her experience filming on set, she praised the way that the film had represented African-Americans: 'It wasn't something where you saw a lot of us "Europeaned" out.' Nikki Z continued: 'You saw so much culture from what I was involved in, it made me feel proud.'

The Gleaner returned to Bond on 26th June 2019. Kimberley Small reported on the release of a behind-the-scenes look at the filming in Jamaica. Though not a trailer, the video, accompanied by a 'groovy dancehall rhythm', was hugely welcomed, especially coming after a string of negative events, including news of a peeping tom in the women's toilets at Pinewood, and an explosion at the studio. The article also highlighted the incongruous appearance of Heineken, rather than Red Stripe beer in the Jamaican scenes. However, the article concluded that fans will nevertheless be getting 'giddy with excitement, to see their beloved MI5 (sic) agent having a romp on the Caribbean shoreline.'  

The Gleaner, 26th June 2019
An article on 25th July 2019 reported on the resurgence of the Jamaican film industry, thanks in part to the presence of the 'Bond 25' crew in the country. The article stated that the film had resulted in 400 jobs for Jamaicans. 

On 5th January, the Gleaner ran through the list of big cinema releases expected in 2020. Accompanied by a photo of Daniel Craig, the piece noted that Bond 25, now called No Time To Die, was scheduled for release in April. Since then, of course, Covid-19 arrived. January's piece won't be the end of the Gleaner's coverage, but for now everything is on hold. 

Comparing the coverage in 2019 with that for Dr No and Live and Let Die, it is striking how similar it is. For all three films, the Gleaner reflected interest in the jobs that the filming would generate, and the duration and location of the filming. Ian Fleming, who created James Bond at Goldeneye, was not forgotten either. 

What is different, though, is the more critical look at how Jamaica is being represented in No Time To Die. When the film crew touched down in April, they arrived in a very different country to that in 1962, when Jamaica had just become independent, and to a lesser extent in 1972, when the legacy of colonial rule (which never fully disappears) still cast a long shadow. One thing is certain, however: James Bond retains the power to generate headlines in Jamaica. 

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