Marcia (Audrey Reid) is a down-on-her luck single mother who sells drinks outside the local dancehall. She dreams of another life, so visits the dancehall in a disguise, where, thanks to her moves, she ends up competing for J$100,000 (£600) and the title of Dancehall Queen.
While the title might be reminiscent of Dancing Queen by a famous Swedish pop band, this is less ABBA more Shabba, complete with appearance from Beenie Man as the dancehall MC.
From the DVD case I assumed it would be about singing/rapping in the Dancehall style, but in fact it’s a dance competition in which the most vigorous booty shaking wins the day.
The film is fun and entertaining, in spite of reflecting the grim realities of life in Jamaica, with the threat of violence, sexual abuse and police brutality never far away. Audrey Reid’s performance maintains a level of humour and she proves a likeable lead.
These factors combine to make a competition movie with a difference which, in 1997, was a trailblazer for a musical genre that was about to go global.