The film “Sprinter” lacks the ability to appeal to a more widespread audience. Instead, its target audience is mostly those who speak and understand the culture demonstrated in the film.
“Sprinter” presents itself as an award-winning indie drama about a male Jamaican teen dealing with the stress of home life and the prospect of his future. This is something producer, Storm Saulter, and executive producers Jada Pickett-Smith and Will Smith were successful in bringing to life.
The audience follows the young enthusiastic teenaged sprinter named Akeem. He grew up with his father and brother. Akeem pushed himself to win medal after medal to make his family proud. Akeem’s relationship with brother and father has also become strained. Due to his brother’s scheming lifestyle, he barely has time to spend with his brother, and his father’s alcoholic problems create a divide between them.
It seems that the only thing that Akeem is making headway in is as a sprinter in track and field.
When he finally gets a chance to show his talent in a 200-meter race he actually succeeds. But the victory turns bittersweet when his ever-distant mother does not answer his calls to congratulate him. He longs for her motherly approval.
His family was separated when he was seven years old, his mother migrated to America to find a better job and be able to support the family. Even though his mother was only supposed to be in America for two years, she is still there when he is in high school.
The portrayal of strain in the familial relationship between Akeem and his family is lacking. The saying of “showing not telling” is not used much in terms of showing Akeem’s relationship with his parents. Instead of “Sprinter” showing character development between the father and son after previously getting into a physical fight with the other, it is simply resolved in the next few scenes when his father decides to show up for the track competition where Akeem was injured.
The story also does little to reveal Akeem’s father is an alcoholic. Instead, the audience sees a scene where Akeem comes home to clean up puke after his father threw up while dead drunk. In a later scene, Akeem’s father brings home a religious woman leading to Akeem calling him a drunk. Shortly after the argument with his father, Akeem leaves home and ends up living with his brother.
The relationship with his mother is more believable. The aspect of only getting to see each other through Skype calls and how most of the time she’s not available because she works so much shows the strain in their relationship. Sadly, this is the extent of their relationship development until an hour into the movie when she comes to watch what could be his greatest performance as a sprinter in high school.
His relationship with his brother, Germaine, is what the movie spends the most time trying to capitalize on. Although it is not as impactful as it could have been, it is still the most interesting part of the story. Germaine, despite letting Akeem live with him in the second half of the movie, does not share any backstory.
The audience is told how Germaine was a sprinter too and, despite getting to go to a school in America, came back to Jamacia and is now running a scam business. And this lack of backstory is not a problem but the lack of tender moments that could have been shown between brothers. This narrative could have given the story something to work with by showing the brothers becoming attached at the hip after feeling isolated from their parents. Germaine’s response to the isolation results in his choosing a criminal life, whereas Akeem pushed himself as a sprinter.
To be honest “Sprinter” is riddled with cliches and the only praise for the film can be said for its Jamaican cast and filming location. The film depicts the economic struggle of Akeem and his father. Perhaps the Jamaican audience can relate to the idea of having to leave your family to go to a foreign country to support your family.
The filmology of “Sprinter” filmography depicting the location’s scenery and color scheme is praise-worthy. Also, in a world where there are very few movies that explore the lives of young colored men in Jamacia “Sprinter” is certainly appreciated.
The film still keeps the audience interested with small moments of humor and his interaction with his brother and how he is forced to choose between what his coach tells him to stay on track and go to college — his brother tells him to capitalize on his popularity as a sprinter and make money before thinking about college.
It is was certainly interesting how this story was based on a real-life person that backed up the idea of creating “Sprinter.” In an example of film mimicking real life, the 22-year-old actor portraying Akeem was also reunited with his mother after 15 years — he, too, was seven when his mother left home.
Actor Dale Eliott said: “Growing up at 5 years old, I didn’t really miss my mother, to be honest. I talked to her on the phone, but it’s not something where I longed to see my mother and father. I had my grandparents, so when I saw my mother in real life, it was like, ‘Oh, a so yuh did shawt?”
My takeaway from “Sprinter” was not his popularity but his ability to run. His brother told him to sprint as long as his body would let him. Then, perhaps go to college.
Written by Brielle R. Buford
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
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Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Gage Skidmore’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License