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I AM BOLT ? Refreshing and real

Jamaica Gleaner / 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 nine-time 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 (‘Class of 92’), 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 Pele, 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 is 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 heavy-handed 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-sprinting related 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

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