Trench Town: The Forgotten Land

2007 ,    »  -   21 Comments
Ratings: 8.44/10 from 115 users.

More than 2 million people visit Jamaica every year. Tourism is Jamaica's largest source of foreign revenue. But there's a side of Jamaica that most foreigners never see. All over Jamaica people live in severe poverty but nowhere is this more apparent than in Trench Town, Kingston 12, which is very close to the city center. The four story apartment blocks sit in parallel with the neighborhood full of boarded up shacks, fenced and roofed with rust colored zinc.

You could be excused for thinking those houses are abandoned, but in fact they house many more than their design intended. Today about 25,000 people live in Trench Town and it is a district that has been deliberately abandoned by its government. Gun crime and shootouts between rival gangs and police are very frequent. Trench Town was immortalized in the music of its most famous resident, Bob Marley. Thanks to Bob Marley people from all over the globe have heard of Trench Town but few foreigners have ever been there.

Due to its particular history, Trench Town is divided into different "zones" each with its own leader. It's the warfare between these hostile areas that has turned Trench Town into one of the most dangerous places in the World. There are gun battles every day and every night. So how do common people manage to live in such a destructive climate? The Police are losing their jurisdiction on the streets, they are constantly involved in shootouts, and there are many innocent victims caught in this fire exchange.

Trench Town hasn't always been the brutal place it is today. It was originally built in 1945 as a Government housing project and there has been very little investment since then. It's hard for the older residents who remember how beautiful the town used to be. Today much of Trench Town is breaking down. It's hard to keep your dignity when you live in such difficulty, but the people who live there have great pride in their community.

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21 Comments / User Reviews

    Jesse Trillet
  1. Jesse Trillet

    Very enlightening but what I wanted to see more of is how the drug traffic between these rival gangs are affecting the community because when they say they dont know why they are fighting it seems fitting that it is probably for drug control.

  2. Pepe Alvarado
  3. Pepe Alvarado

    Drug trade, sex trade and gun trade.

  4. anastasius
  5. anastasius

    What a sad situation. I feel for those within that community who have to live with that sense of insecurity towards their basic safety.

    This documentary could have been a little better had it presented more information about the "dons". I wonder how much of the violence is power/prestige related as opposed to criminal racketeering as mentioned in a previous comment.

    Overall, a good documentary.

  6. southab403
  7. southab403

    Very much enjoyed this documentary! It has inspired me to seek and find an opportunity to help others in troubled situations. I have managed to solidify an ongoing angst/desire of many years running.
    Thanks for that

  8. Keith Mitchell Sr.
  9. Keith Mitchell Sr.

    An excellent portrayal of the real Trench Town, not the one Bob Marley sang about, “Trench Town rock, don’t watch dat…” The moderator sums it up nicely, “The responsibility for the future of Trench Town, Jamaica, and its communities lies in the hands of the Jamaican Government. Continuing to allow gunmen and “Dons” to control the communities is to fail in its fundamental duty to protect its citizens…”

  10. cdnski12
  11. cdnski12

    Ya gotta stand up and control your community. You let these Don's push you around and perpetuate the drugs & violence. Get together with the Police and clean up your neighbourhoods. Get organized! Good Luck!

  12. Kwende Idrissa Madu
  13. Kwende Idrissa Madu

    I've known many Jamaicans who can verify the truth of this film.

  14. bringmeredwine
  15. bringmeredwine

    I had no idea that things were this bad!
    I was left with the impression that "the powers that be" are hoping eventually the poverty and violence will wipe the entire community off the map.
    They obviously don't give a d@#n for the good people that are trapped there. Why aren't they rounding up the criminals and confiscating the guns? How are the guns and ammo getting onto this island and into this community?
    How can the kids that have stayed in school possibly get out of there and fulfill their dreams, if there's no money or jobs to help them make their way?
    I was very moved by how much the teachers cared. They are really trying to make a difference in their students' lives. They are heroes.
    My heart ached for the young lady at the end of the doc who wants to be a flight attendant. I wish I could help her.

  16. Andrea Knight
  17. Andrea Knight

    Thanks for this documentary. Born and raised in upper St. Andrew, Jamaica, i have never been the west end of Kingston. I felt as if you were speaking about another world. Maybe you should do a documentary in upper st.Andrew and show the stark contrast to the west end. Something is very disturbing here. I am a Jamaican living in the US. Trench Town is somewhere that you were told never to enter. I admire the courage of your crew to present this to the world. I commend the brave people of Trench Town to even speak on camera. Beautiful intelligent children...........

  18. Sendinglove
  19. Sendinglove

    I feel sad for them. The girl who wants to be a flight attendant had me in tears. They are good people caught up in a bad situation with no way out. It seams that I remember that Bob was shot as well. Well done documentary but I am still sad. I hope it changes. I hope, I hope.

  20. Sendinglove
  21. Sendinglove

    Right. These children do not deserve this. The good people do not deserve this life. I feel like the Government has just abandoned them and as they said the politicians helped create this war zone just to get votes. Evil.

  22. Sendinglove
  23. Sendinglove

    I don't know Jesse. I think if the major problem was drugs they would talk about it and also you would see much more evidence. They repeatedly talked about politics and also Bob sang about it as well. Also the poverty, fear and boredom. The strive to become a "Don"

  24. neit1
  25. neit1

    I found this movie to be pretty shallow. It did not even attempt to answer the why? Where is all this violence coming from? "Don vs. don" or "gang vs. gang" does not answer this question. How do the gangs make their money? Where do they get their guns? Is it because marijuana is illegal, yet widely used? What is going on with government policy that is allowing this to happen? This film leaves way too many unanswered questions. This is not a matter of "stand up and take control of your community" - what are the POLICIES that drive this violence?

  26. Josh
  27. Josh

    I think you missed the point (even though it did answer some of those questions). The point of the doc was to illuminate the lives of the innocent and positive people living in Trenchtown.

  28. James
  29. James

    The comments about the lack of an "Investigative" edge to this film are kind of valid but it was not our intention to make an investigative TV style documentary. A lot of these questions have been well tackled by the press. Of course there is always more one feels that could have been done but the film was always intended to be a insight ... a window into another world. Notwithstanding Trench Town is not the easiest place in the world to spend two weeks filming and not everybody there was pleased with our presence..

  30. kayann
  31. kayann

    @James, who is the man in the glasses and the soccer jersey?

  32. James
  33. James

    That's Junior kayann

  34. Elaine
  35. Elaine

    This is not the Trench Town I grew up in the sixties and early seventies.

  36. Amon
  37. Amon

    Well done. Thank you to Mr. Ewart and crew for this revealing piece of work.

  38. anomynous
  39. anomynous

    Answer to the questions..where do the guns come from?..initially.the politicians armed the local criminals to enforce voting at the elections....after the elections the criminals keep/kept the guns and took over the community.........when new kingston was built back in the day..all the middle classes who lived in trench town (its locality to downtown kingston where all the major buisnesses were located made trench town popular in those days) moved out and relocated to the new kingdton suburbs,.then in the 70s trench town was split in 2..1st to 7th street "rema".jlp..and 7th to 14th street arneyt gardens "jungle" ine community politically divided....on top of that all the local housing schemes fighting each other over narcotics etc..the end result is a war zone....i hope i answered some of the quedtions ...

  40. Paul
  41. Paul

    I enjoyed the doc. I wish they could've talked to a Don(yeah right- good luck) I imagine it was very difficult to shoot and the footage they captured was great. How are those kids going to get away from that? The cops, teachers and some of the vommunity members are trying hard to bring peace and education to Trenchtown but sadly I don't think there is any hope.

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