– Re­fresh­ing and real

Jamaica Gleaner - - ENTERTAINMENT - An­dre Lowe Special Projects Editor – Sports

HE IS a mod­ern mar­vel, and for the first time ever, fans of sprint king Usain Bolt are given a look be­hind the cur­tain, with the nine­time Olympic cham­pion’s I Am

Bolt film de­liv­er­ing a mov­ing and in­spir­ing por­trayal of the Ja­maican’s life.

You’ve seen him con­quer the world and you’ve prob­a­bly won­dered what his life is like. Well. Here it is.

I Am Bolt is some­what of a re­al­ity TV pre­sen­ta­tion, mixed with a touch of drama and sus­pense; somehow, the film finds a sweet spot, tak­ing view­ers on a ride that de­spite its ex­pected hero – ec­static fans make an hon­est stride with the sprinter’s strug­gles, doubts, emo­tions, daily rou­tines and some in­ter­est­ing back­sto­ries to some of his great­est mo­ments laid bare for all to see. Ri­vals, drug-cheat­ing (even thought we would have loved to hear him talk some more about this per­haps), fam­ily – ev­ery­thing is touched. By the way, we are not ex­pect­ing Amer­i­can sprinter Justin Gatlin to be a huge fan of this one. I Am Bolt tells the story of a young Ja­maican, who, from ru­ral and modest up­bring­ings, ran his way into the hearts of a gen­er­a­tion, cap­tur­ing the imag­i­na­tion of a world and ce­ment­ing his legacy as the great­est sprinter in his­tory.


Yet, sib­ling direc­tors Ben­jamin and Gabe Turner, who have won crit­i­cal ac­claim for their work, man­aged to de­liver some­thing far deeper and more inspirational than a doc­u­men­tary about a gifted sports­man.

Bolt’s sto­ry­book as­cen­sion to the com­pany of greats is per­fectly cap­tured at the very be­gin­ning – in a spine-chill­ing mono­logue by US rap­per Nas.

“The hu­man spirit, the hu­man mind, should never be un­der­es­ti­mated. Some of us were born to do great things, to in­spire, to run ... We all run for dif­fer­ent rea­sons, but no one in the his­tory of hu­man­ity has run as fast as Usain Bolt.”

With rolling drum pat­terns and re­gal horns, it comes across with po­etic au­then­tic­ity with an ac­com­pa­ny­ing score that forces you to pay at­ten­tion.

This isn’t your nor­mal doc­u­men­tary.

There is no nar­ra­tion. There is no script. Just Bolt, his par­ents, his in­ner cir­cle, his ri­vals, his ad­mir­ers.

Brazil­ian foot­ball leg­end Pelé, speaks of his love and re­spect for the Ja­maican. An­other Brazil­ian foot­ball wizard, Ney­mar, show­ers the sprinter with praise.

Ten­nis ti­tan Ser­ena Wil­liams is ap­par­ently a huge fan.

Asafa Pow­ell comes across as a big brother who is just happy to have lived his own dreams through his ‘bredrin’.

Ja­maican mu­si­cians Ziggy Mar­ley and Chronixx, IAAF pres­i­dent Se­bas­tian Coe and Amer­i­can sprint­ing great Michael John­son, all chip in.

Thirty sec­onds into the film, Bolt is sit­ting in the shad­ows of Bei­jing’s Bird’s Nest sta­dium in 2015. It was the site of his coro­na­tion as the fastest man on the planet, but as one com­men­ta­tor is heard ask­ing, “is the same venue about to wit­ness his ab­di­ca­tion?”

Bolt was walk­ing into a ma­jor cham­pi­onship as the un­der­dog for the first time in a very long time.

We all know what hap­pened next.

He won. But like this film man­ages to do over and over again, ev­ery emo­tion is re­lived and mag­ni­fied when the per­spec­tives and re­ac­tions of Bolt and his team are added to the mix.


All the things you didn’t see be­fore the race takes you to the starter’s gun, won­der­ing if what you saw back then went the way you re­mem­bered it. You know he won a cer­tain race, but you find your­self al­most feel­ing ner­vous, anx­ious to see how it ended.

Bolt’s in­ter­ac­tion with his coach, Glen Mills, brings sev­eral of the ti­tle’s lighter mo­ments, you get a real ap­pre­ci­a­tion of what makes that re­la­tion­ship work. There are hints of other re­la­tion­ships – if you know what we mean.

There are quite a few good stories there, too, one in par­tic­u­lar that in­volves his fa­ther, Welles­ley.

You’ve seen a lot of Usain Bolt, but you have never seen him like this.

There are no earth-shat­ter­ing rev­e­la­tions, but its cer­tainly enough ‘Oh, that’s what re­ally hap­pened’, mo­ments that will not only en­ter­tain, but are sure to in­spire view­ers.

The film does have its flaws, how­ever. Yes, Bolt is the great­est sprinter ever and a very lik­able hu­man being, but the direc­tors might have been a bit heavy­handed in bring­ing that point across. At times it feels like you are in front of a shrine and not a screen. Also, it would have brought some added ex­cite­ment if we saw even more non-sprint­in­gre­lated footage.

All in all, I Am Bolt, didn’t dip across the line in 9.58, but the year’s biggest doc­u­men­tary still took home the gold medal in a con­vinc­ing 9.72


Usain Bolt with dancers at the world premiere of his film, ‘I Am Bolt’, at the Odeon Le­ices­ter Square Cinema in Lon­don.

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