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A Rex Nettleford documentary? Excellent!

Friday, July 20, 2012


Flim-maker Mr Lennie Little-White has a most unenviable task — that of capturing in a mere hour the life of Professor Rex Nettleford. However, being the talented artist that he is, we have no doubt that Mr Little-White will provide for the world a documentary worthy of the late professor's many accomplishments over his 76 years with us.

We, of course, welcome this project, and, like Mr Little-White, believe that it will serve to inspire youngsters in particular, who will get from the documentary the value of hard work and professionalism.

For those are the attributes that defined Professor Nettleford, a man who, we have said before in this space, did not belong to himself but gave of his every molecule to the betterment of his human family, especially Jamaicans.

His is the story of legends. Born in rural Jamaica to parents who were by no means regarded as rich, Professor Ralston 'Rex' Nettleford — by dint of hard work, an insatiable thirst for knowledge and a determination to grab the opportunities offered by education — lifted himself to the pinnacle of Caribbean academia.

It helped, of course, that he had a sharp mind, but his achievements were the result of his extraordinary discipline, penchant for perfection, and fixity of purpose.

Those attributes were also evident in his leadership of the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) which, to this day, is one of the world's most respected performing arts organisations.

Mr Little-White's revelation that he has extensive footage of the NDTC documented over many years is music to our ears, for we find that too often in this country the works and stories of our heroes, icons and, indeed, our forefathers, are hardly ever preserved, if they are at all recorded.

In fact, we recall during the early days of the Jamaica Observer, the lament of one of our cultural giants that the Jamaica Memory Bank project, commissioned by former Prime Minister Edward Seaga, was scrapped after a change of Government on the basis of a lack of money.

Consider how rich our heritage archive would be today had that ill-informed decision not been taken.

Thankfully, that kind of backward thinking is foreign to the minds of Mr Little-White and Sir Shridath Ramphal, another Caribbean intellectual giant and chairman of the Rex Nettleford Foundation who revived the idea of the documentary.

Mr Little-White has been reported as saying that the intention is not to make the film "an academic piece". That is understandable, given the Rex Nettleford Foundation's desire to ensure that it instils in the young the benefits of hard work.

We don't, however, expect that the documentary will oversimplify the significance of a life that — as so eloquently stated by Mr Seaga at a special sitting of the Parliament in February 2010 — "charted a course that proclaimed the ability of not just the ordinary man but the ordinary black man to be an extraordinary man".

Mr Little-White has informed us that the film is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year. We hope he meets that deadline and that copies will be made available to schools throughout the country.

Kudos to Messrs Ramphal and Little-White for an excellent idea.



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