Back a Yard


Genre: Coming of Age Story

Period: Summer of 1972

Logline: 16-year-old Amanda Clarke returns to Jamaica in search of love but finds herself instead.

“Back a Yard” means “back home” in Jamaican patois.

After spending her formative years in Montreal, Amanda Clarke returns to her Jamaican homeland and makes important discoveries about her roots, her identity and herself.

The story begins in the spring of 1972, a few weeks before high school graduation. Amanda is forced to confront the painful realities of racial prejudice. No one at her predominantly White school has invited Amanda to the prom. When she goes looking for a summer job with her best friend Verna, who is White and blonde, Amanda gets a first hand lesson in racism. Verna readily obtains employment at an ice cream parlour shortly after the manager told Amanda that the store was not hiring.

These experiences confuse Amanda and make her feel alienated from the comfortable middle-class environment in which she was raised.

Amanda’s father, a university professor, is also receiving prejudicial treatment. He has little credibility with his co-workers and it has taken him much longer to make tenure than younger White professors with far less experience.

It is an attempt to relieve some of the tension within their family that Amanda’s parents decide to take her and here sister, Dominique, "home" to Jamaica for a “breather”.

In Jamaica, Amanda blossoms. While she is not fluent in patois or adept in the customs, she instinctively feels that Jamaica is where she belongs. Due to her lack of familiarity with Jamaican society, Amanda makes numerous social blunders and finds herself in many humorous situations.

She becomes involved with Charles, a young carpenter who is doing some repairs at her grandmother's house.

Through the influence of her grandmother and her friendship with her cousins, Amanda learns that there is a lot more to being Jamaican than having a certain accent.

When her parents find out that Amanda is involved with Charles, they send her and her sister, to stay in Kingston with their uncle and aunt who live in an upper middle class area. When her parents arrive unexpectedly from the country, they discover that Amanda is on the verge of becoming intimate with Charles.

They confront Amanda and tell her that the family is cutting the vacation short and returning “home” the next day. Amanda replies, “Jamaica is my home and I’m not going anywhere”.

Early the next morning, before the rest of the family wakes up, Amanda runs away to be with Charles. Amanda’s attempt to find Charles goes anything but smoothly. No taxi driver will go to the part of Kingston where he lives because of the violence and the deplorable living conditions.

When Amanda is exposed to the harsh social and economic realities that many Jamaicans are forced to endure on a daily basis, her problems begin to pale by comparison.

After walking in the sun for hours, Amanda discovers that Charles is living in the ghetto with another woman and that he is the father of several children.

While this experience devastates Amanda, it does not disillusion her. Instead, her experiences give her a fuller view of her homeland, strengthen her conviction that Jamaica is where she belongs, and lead her to the conclusion that she can make a meaningful contribution.

At the end of their vacation, as the family boards and Air Canada jet, Amanda looks longingly back at the mountains overlooking Kingston. As "Jamaica Farewell" plays, a single tear rolls down Amanda’s cheek.

By the end of the story, Amanda emerges as a more mature and confident young woman with a strong sense of identity, purpose and direction. She is able to overcome her problems, return to Jamaica, and take constructive action to better the lives of her fellow Jamaicans who are living in poverty.

  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 20 minutes
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  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project: