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Sprinter out of the blocks this week

BY SADE GARDNER
Observer writer
gardners@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Sprinter, the sophomore film from writer/director Storm Saulter, will have its festival premiere this week at the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) in Miami, Florida.

ABFF runs from today to June 19. Sprinter will be featured tomorrow and have its grand premiere the following day.

The coming-of-age story follows Akeem Sharp, a 17-year-old Rastafarian high school track-and-field student who has ambitions of qualifying for the national youth track team. He hopes to reunite with his mother, an illegal immigrant in the United States, by competing at the World Youth Championship.

Speaking at a media briefing at the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) headquarters in Kingston last Friday, Saulter said he wanted to tackle different issues with this film. Having made his directorial debut with Better Mus' Come (2010), he wanted to avoid stereotypical roles of the Jamaican “bad man” or poverty-stricken youth.

“It's about a boy trying to figure out who he is and what his motivation is and why he is even running in the first place,” Saulter told the Jamaica Observer. “I think the power of family and parents is super-important, and not having a parent around or a parental figure does impact kids. They are left to figure things out for themselves; inevitably you're gonna have a few misfires sometimes 'cause you need someone to guide you. That's not a rule against everything, but it's important.”

The 90-minute film was shot in Jamaica and Los Angeles over five weeks.

Social media star Dale Elliot (popularly known as Elli The Viner) makes his film debut as Sharp. Shantol Jackson, Dennis Titus and Kadeem Wilson also comprise the main cast.

The storyline hit close to home for Elliot. The 22-year-old was active in track and field at Kingston College, and his parents also reside overseas. It was through his involvement in the film that he got to see his father in person after many years. Elliot said it was emotional shooting some scenes.

Sprinter got me the visa to meet my dad, I really want to meet my mother and I really want her to see the film,” he said. “There are scenes in it where I have to display emotions as it relates to missing my mother or having family arguments, so that's where I had to tap into a part of my life that I had cast a shadow over. There are some happy moments in the film, too. I think Sprinter captures beautiful features of the rural and urban aspects of Jamaica and I can't wait for everyone to see it,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

While he is yet to see the finished product, Elliot looks forward to attending ABFF, which he went to last year. He is an international relations student at The University of the West Indies and hopes to pursue a career in film after school.

Rob Mailer along with Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, through their company Overbrook Productions, form part of Sprinter's production team. Saulter explained how the Hollywood power couple got involved.

“It came about through relationships with our lead producer Rob, and his relationship with producers at Overbrook,” he said. “Rob got the script to Kareema Pinckney who is the associate producer of the film, and she read the script, loved it and pushed it along to really get it done. Will and Jada are executive producers and they've been part of it from the beginning of production. This is important because it's a Jamaican film with Jamaican characters but we are working and partnering with folks who are on that international level.”

Saulter hopes to have a Jamaica premiere before the year ends.

JAMPRO's film commissioner Renee Robinson congratulated the creatives.

“From a JAMPRO perspective, this is always very important to us. We think it's important to be able to identify what is happening in the film industry, to identify opportunities for the creation of local content, to be able to identify opportunities for their future exposure internationally as well as the opportunity to be able to work together,” she said. “It may be the first you'll be hearing the names of some of these local talent but it will certainly not be the last.”