The new indie film “Sprinter,” by Jamaican director, Storm Saulter, is one of those rare films that will grow by the positive word-of-mouth. Every single frame is beautiful to look at and under director Saulter’s expert eye, he makes Jamaica look like a paradise lost which matches the intensity of the story.
“Sprinter” is more than just a coming of age story, while it’s deeply rooted in Jamaica and cleverly centered around athletics it touches upon universal themes that any breathing human being can easily relate to.
It’s that relatability that helped Saulter’s film win three top awards at the 2018 American Black Film Festival. He’s a bold filmmaker making smart choices where to add a gentle touch as he explores the complicated layers that make up a family. He didn’t dance around Caribbean masculinity or the impact of immigration on families. He explored sacrifice and crime. In short, “Sprinter” has it all.
“Sprinter,” tells the story of Akeem Sharp, played by Dave Elliott, a teenage sprinting wonder who struggles to find himself as he wrestles with growing without his mother (Lorraine Toussaint) who migrated to the US to help shape the families dismal financial prospects. He’s left alone with his alcoholic father, and a brother disenchanted with the abrupt end of his own sprinting career who turns to crime as a way to make a living.
Akeem’s coach, played by American actor David Allan Grier (In Living Colour) urges him to develop his mind if he truly wants to succeed on the track. Nicknamed the Rasta Rocket, he makes the wise decision to use his mind to succeed in life as his fame grows, drawing thirsty groupies, sex, wild partying and ultimately a run in with the law.
The actor, Elliott, is a former sprinter, and his body shows the years of training with every movement. Being an athlete is painful and requires a type of mastery over that driving pain. Yet it’s when he comes face-to-face with his mother for the first time in 10 years that we understand just how deeply her absence has impacted on him.
In the several press interviews, director Saulter shared that the storyline was a personal one for Elliott who grew up without his father and mother. All of the performances are excellent but Jamaica’s rising star Shantol Jackson delivers a stand-out performance. Jackson, plays Kerry Hall, a runner determined to follow her dreams no matter what. Something that young Akeem needs to drink in more.
Hall is the opposite of Akeem although they share the same lack of family structure.
Storm Saulter didn’t disappoint with the music that swells in “Sprinter” and it’s packed with Jamaican artists such as Kabaka Pyramid, Alkaline’s Champion Boy, Chichingching and Demarco.
“Sprinter” was executive produced by Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith through their Overbrook Entertainment Production Company and NBA veteran, Richard Jefferson. “Sprinter” also stars Kadeem Wilson, Dennis Titus, and Bryshere Y. Gray.
Here is what director Storm Saulter had to share about his powerful, must-see, indie film “Sprinter.”
LOS ANGELES SENTINEL: Storm Saulter, what’s your background? Where did you grow up?
Storm Saulter: I was born on the West End of Negril, Jamaica to a large family of very creative people. I grew up there and went to Manning’s High School, the 2nd oldest in Jamaica, in nearby Savanna-La-Mar.
LAS: And your family?
SS: My parents are artists in their own right and they always encouraged our creative instincts. My brother and fellow filmmaker, Nile and I, had total freedom to go on adventures along the cliffs and through the bushes and beaches of Negril, and these moments very much informed my sense of adventure and storytelling.
LAS: This is a modern Caribbean family, they are middle of the road. Relatable. Is this on purpose?
SS: The intention was to tell a more nuanced story of a middle of the road family going through more relatable life obstacles as opposed to the kind of extreme life or death and rags-to-riches stories people come to expect from our cinema. The simplicity and familiarity are what is most radical I think, and hopefully, ultimately, most true.
LAS: I agree. I loved your film for many reasons and the simplicity and familiarity are my favorite. What’s your connection to losing a mother? The film feels personal but with enough distance. Care to share?
SS: My mother, Greer-Ann Saulter, was the most vibrant, positive, and beautiful person. Losing her to cancer was a shock that I’ve lived with and still try to process. I was interested in creating a character that lost his mother, but could maybe get her back if he was only fast enough.
LAS: I’m sorry for your lost. You have a lot of genuine emotions in your film, I understand why now. What do you love about directing narratives vs. commercials?
SS: Directing narratives to me is the ultimate manifestation of dreams. There are shots that come to me years before I can shoot them, but the moment when it’s actually happening is pure magic.
I have a lot of fun with commercials, music videos, and other short-form filmmaking. I experiment a lot with visual and narrative techniques and thankfully commercial budgets sometimes allow you to play with new gear and sharpen your skills for the next film.
LAS: How long did it take to get the script for “Springer” in shape?
SS: It took 2 to 3 years of workshopping and rewrites till we got to the shooting script. Once we got there we were shooting within months.
“Sprinter” written and directed by Storm Saulter stars Dale Elliott, Shantol Jackson, Kadeem Wilson, Dennis Titus, Bryshere Y. Gray with Lorraine Toussaint and David Alan Grier. Opens April 24 in select cities.