Rex Nettleford unmasked in 'Long Live the King'

Published: Tuesday | December 17, 2013 Comments 0
Rex Nettleford in action. - File
Rex Nettleford in action. - File

Marcia Rowe, Gleaner Writer

On a day when millions around the world paused to share in a funeral service for South Africa's iconic president, Nelson Mandela, a group of Jamaicans congregated at the Carib Theatre in Kingston to reminisce on, or learn more about, one of their own.

The significant occasion was the viewing of the third and final part to a trilogy of documentaries on the life of Professor Rex Nettleford, who passed away in 2010.

Entitled Long Live the King: Behind the Mask of Rex Nettleford, the film, unlike part one, Tribute to Rex Nettleford, and part two, Renaissance Man, where the emphasis is on the professor's dancing and his academic achievements, focuses on his personal life.

Nettleford's human side is revealed through a patchwork of narration, poetry, dances, Nettleford in his own words, and interviews with some members of his inner circle and acquaintances.

All combined to reveal that behind the mask of academia and dancing Nettleford was also a collector of art and supported the Jamaican arts industry. He was a kind and generous man who willingly provided financial assistance from bus fare to the building of a house.

Nettleford also liked his meals prepared a particular way and loved to talk on the phone. The most interesting revelation was that while he had no problem with the concept of a person being called a 'bhutu', he refused to buy into the notion of 'bhutuisim'.

Another area that may be of interest was that some of Nettleford's interviews were conducted in what appeared to be his study, with its walls heavily decorated with works of art. But shots of his bedroom revealed simpler and more practical décor.

dancer's struggle

The 55-minute-long film begins with the dance 'The King Must Die'. It shows Rex Nettleford's character lying on the floor, tossing and turning as he is being attacked. It ends with the character finally succumbing to his pain and dying.

The film is also divided into several scenes marked by the reading of poems, narration and a picture of Rex.

As it moves from one scene to the other, each is punctuated or reinforced with a dance by the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC).

For the most part, the audience thought the film was nicely done.

Among the audience was former master drummer for the NDTC, Billy Lawrence. He thought "It was excellent, but only one problem I had with it. I didn't see most of the founding people being interviewed. They are a part of the foundation."

Before the viewing of the film, Little-White, in a sort of tell-all, thanked persons who assisted in making the film a reality. He gave an insight into why a film on the professor's personal life.

"Professor Nettleford deserves many films," said Little-White.

And while it is important to produce a film based on the professor's academic pursuits, Little-White believes his personal life is just as important.

Little-White also reassured the audience that the film was not a replica of the first two, but an extension.

Part two of the trilogy is owned by the Rex Nettleford Foundation, but it is the people of Jamaica who own one and three.

His ambition is to give a copy of the films to every school and library in Jamaica.

There are also plans to put it on YouTube. Another revelation made by the producer was that having been asked by Nettleford to film every NDTC season of dance for the past 20 years, he now has the largest collection of the company's works.

The voice-over for all three films was done by Adrian Atkinson, but Cecil Baugh was the voice behind the poems, and Jon Williams is responsible for the original music in Long Live the King.


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