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Jada, Will Smith endorse ‘Sprinter’ ahead of US opening

Published:Wednesday | May 1, 2019 | 12:00 AMShereita Grizzle/Staff Reporter
The star of the movie, Dale Elliot, at the recent Jamaican premiere of ‘Sprinter’ at Carib 5.

Sprinter, the film directed by Jamaican Storm Saulter, opened in theatres across the US last Wednesday, and executive producers Jada Pinkett-Smith and her husband, Will Smith, took to their respective Instagram accounts to ramp up support for the production.

Pinkett-Smith, the host of ‘ Red Table Talk’, was the first to endorse the Jamaican film. A day before it hit theatres, she shared news of its pending release with her seven million followers on social media. Alongside the trailer, she wrote a caption that summed up her reason for wanting to be involved with the production.

She described Sprinter as a film that is special to her, not just because it helped her and her husband realise a dream of assisting people of colour with telling their stories, but also because of her connection to Jamaica. 

“We at @overbrook have been on a mission to give women and artists of colour a platform and resources to tell their stories through film. @sprinterthefilm is a special project for me, considering my maternal grandmother is from Jamaica,” she said, before congratulating Saulter on a job well done. “Congrats to our director @stormsaulter. And thank you to our distribution partners @wearefilmrise and @gathrfilms for helping to make this all possible.

Then on Friday night, her husband, actor Will Smith, joined the Sprinter support train with an endorsement of his own. Smith, who has more than 30 million followers on Instagram, used the platform to ask people to go out and see the film. He explained that he and his team are experimenting with a strategy called ‘theatrical on demand’. According to him, theatrical on demand means the movie will be available in theatres, on demand, through a partnership with a company called Film Rise. “You gotta demand it. I want y’all to go to and find out how you can help this beautiful film get to the world,” he said, after which the video segued into the film’s trailer. His post garnered more than three million views and over two thousand comments. The video has since been re-posted by some of the members of the film’s cast and crew, including director Storm Saulter and lead actor, Dale Elliot Junior.

Although the majority of comments were congratulating the Smith family and their company, Overbrook Entertainment, some asked about the number of Jamaican actors involved in the production. Pointing out that international companies have a tendency to hire overseas acts to play Jamaican roles, many users hoped this would not be the case with Sprinter. Overbrook Entertainment, in the comments, assured fans that Jamaican actors were heavily involved in the film. The page’s administrators even went as far as to tag the actors and actresses, no doubt giving them some more exposure.

Shot on location in Jamaica, Sprinter stars Dale Elliot as Akeem Sharp, an aspiring athlete fighting to find himself without the guidance of either of his parents, as they are both living overseas. With that emotional support missing from his life, Akeem looks to his big brother as the ‘father figure’. Sharp is hoping that a successful athletic career can assist him in reuniting with his mother.

Sprinter also stars Kadeem Wilson, Dennis Titus, Shantol Jackson, Bryshere Y. Gray, Lorraine Toussaint and David Alan Grier. The film will open in local theatres in May. It has already been awarded numerous accolades, including Best Narrative Feature, Audience Award, and Best Director from the American Black Film Festival; the New Vision Award at the Bahamas International Film Festival; Best Narrative Feature at the Pan African Film Festival; and Best Feature Film at the Nouveaux Regards.