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Film trilogy celebrates Rex Nettleford

Published:Sunday | September 22, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Rex Nettleford

Few Caribbean personalities have attracted as many accolades as the iconic Professor Rex Nettleford. The brilliant academic, the intuitive intellectual and the dancer-choreographer par excellence has left a shadow that still looms large across the Caribbean - if not the entire world.

Against this background, it is small wonder that Mediamix, led by film-maker Lennie Little-White, is now in production of the final part of a film trilogy that celebrates the life of one of Jamaica's most illustrious sons.

Earlier this year, Little-White completed a 45-minute film commissioned by the Rex Nettleford Foundation. This production, which is yet to have its premiere, chronicles the life of the 'country boy who came to town' and turned it upside down.

His academic achievements from Rhodes Scholar to vice-chancellor of the University of the West indies parallel his milestones in dance and the pantheon of Jamaica's cultural landscape.

On completing the film, aptly called The Renaissance Man, Little-White felt that is one aspect of Professor Nettleford's life that had never before been represented.

"It was important to go beyond the hallowed halls of Mona and the proscenium arch of the theatre to show the very human and sensitive side of the man who was a mentor and benefactor to so many persons," Little-White said.

"In the third film, we get to peek behind the mask to show the umbilical linkages with his mother, plus very close friends and confidants who were lucky to share his private cocoon,"

Film focus

This film looks at his extensive art collection, his eclectic taste in music, his preference for our basic 'yard food', and his recurring personal gifts of funds to help the needy to get a better education.

This final segment of the trilogy reflects Nettleford's personal canvas, awash with rainbow colours and deft brushstrokes that drew energy from the past, while creating new streams of thought and artistic expression to last decades to come.

To bring this film to life, the National Dance Theatre Company provides the crucible that helped to burnish him as the bronze godling of the arts.

The poetic narrative read by Professor Edward Baugh ushers in Barry Moncrieffe and Carson Cumberbatch, who reveal aspects of the choreographer that few people knew. His diverse choreographic creations are evidenced in Dialogue for Three, Brazilian Ode, Dis Poem, Spirits at a Gathering and The King Must Die, which features the professor himself in the lead role.

Diverse perspectives

The director turned the mirror inward to get diverse perspectives from Dr Cezley Sampson - the executor of his estate, Dr Ronnie Saulter, Sam Smith and Little-White himself, who calls Nettleford the beacon that shone a light for his own pathway in the arts.

A trilogy begs the question - why three films on the professor?

Little-White said the first film was a 17-minute song of celebration or requiem immediately after the passing of the Professor. The second film is the institutional film that is politically correct and satisfies the mandate of the foundation.

The director opined that "I believe that this third film will show a gentler, kinder side of the man who never forgot that he came up from the canefields of Trelawny to walk with prime ministers, kings and heads of state across all continents. In spite of all these milestones, he was always 'Rex' to those who were lucky enough to enter his sanctuary."