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Sprinter out the blocks

Observer senior reporter
johnsonr@jamaicaobserver com

Friday, March 29, 2019

The Jamaican film community turned out in numbers for Tuesday's première of Sprinter, director Storm Saulter's latest production. Although it is inspired by Jamaica's imposing presence on international track and field and dominance of sprinter Usain Bolt, the film takes a human interest route, looking at the complicated lives some athletes lead.

Such is the case of Akeem Sharp, the protagonist in Sprinter. He is a young athlete who shows great promise, but must shake the monkey from his back to reach his potential. The monkey is in the shape of his mother's decision to migrate to the United States, and his only contact with her is video calls.

The role is played by Dale Elliot, a recent graduate of The University of the West Indies, who makes his film début. His previous 'acting' were short Instagram posts which caught the eye of Saulter.

“I went to meet with Storm and he asked me to tell him about myself. I started and very soon he realised that there were similarities with the character he had created... and he chose me. I had no acting experience, never acted before unless you count what I do on Instagram for 15 and 20 seconds,” Elliot said. “I just went in and got some acting classes from Leonie Forbes and Storm. One of the things he taught me was the concept of less is more... the less you do on camera, the more it shows on camera. I really just used that right through and apparently its worked for the film as we have won a few awards.”

Sprinter is a delightful project that should appeal to a cross-section of fans, as Saulter incorporates aspects of Jamaican life and living in this work. The vibrant music and culture sears on screen in addition to scenic shots; it also has its share of cameos including Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

What would a Jamaican film about sprinting be without Usain Bolt?

“They asked me to be a part of it and it was really a no-brainer. I mean it's a Jamaican film and it's about sprinting, so when they approached me, considering that is familiar territory, I decided to do it. I am happy I did, because it has been getting great reviews,” said Bolt.

Actress Shantol Jackson has been having quite the ride. She recently appeared in the Idris Elba-directed Yardie which just closed locally; Sprinter is actually her first film.

“What I love about the film is that the story is universal. It is an authentic Jamaican movie with an authentic story. It is the 'barrel pickney' story, something that most of us experience but never see it being told. So I am grateful to have been there and to have witnessed that story being told and how every character in that story was able to connect with that theme,” she said.

Sprinter is Saulter's second film, and was executive produced by Hollywood stars Will Smith, his wife Jada Pinkett Smith and Rob Maylor. There was also input from Josef Bogdanovich and Zachary Harding.