Why Do Jamaicans Run So Fast?
Published: Monday | June 22, 2009
Krista Henry, Staff Reporter
The fastest man alive Usain Bolt (left) who is featured in the documentary ‘Why Jamaicans Run So Fast?’ alongside the film’s producer Fernando Garcia-Guerta. - Contributed
With a ‘little feeling’ that something big was going to happen at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China, Spanish music producer Fernando Garcia-Guereta shifted gears from the studio and on to the track with his debut documentary Why Do Jamaicans Run So Fast?
Filming months before the Olympics and continuing the journey from Beijing and back, the 61-minute documentary is the only non-American film nominated at this year’s American Black Film Festival.
It is one of three films nominated in the documentary category at the festival, which is slated from June 24-27 in Miami Beach, Florida.
Garcia-Guereta strives to find the answer to Jamaican athletes’ speed in the film and in the process, beautifully captures the spirit and zeal of Jamaicans.
Loving the jamaican culture
The owner of Nice Time Productions, a music label and film production company in Portland, Garcia-Guereta said he fell in love with Jamaica at the tender age of 15 when he heard reggae legend Bob Marley for the first time. His love for his second home and its people drove him to document one of the nation’s greatest achieve-ments - a record 13 Olympic medals, including six golds.
In a phone interview with The Gleaner as he travelled from his home in Portland, Garcia-Guereta commented, “The documentary came about from me being involved with supporting the children’s sports programmes. I love track and field and the Olympics was coming around and I never expect it to do so well, but I knew something was going to happen.”
After making an overseas call to director Miquel Galofré, the two followed the sport from July of last year with the National Trials, through to the Olympics while in Jamaica and awaiting the athletes as they returned to the Norman Manley International Airport.
As the athletes wowed audiences each week, the two filmmakers hit the streets, capturing the reaction of the public and interviewing a wide array of persons, including Yendi Phillipps, Lisa Hannah, Big Youth, Etana, Vybz Kartel, LA Lewis, Asafa Powell, Usain Bolt and his family, Shelly-Ann Fraser, Melaine Walker and her family, Shericka Williams, as well as Bruce James and Glen Mills.
What is the formula?
Jamaica’s 4x100m relay team (from left) Asafa Powell, Nesta Carter, Usain Bolt and Michael Frater celebrate winning the final and breaking the world record at the Beijing Olympics in China last year. - File
As the name suggests, the documentary tries to discover the ‘formula’ behind why Jamaicans run so fast and Garcia-Guereta said he received a wide range of answers from the athletes, artistes, doctors and the layman who had some funny responses.
However, Garcia-Guereta said that the documentary highlights the many schools sports programmes as the reason and not the theories of yam consumption and sprinting from gun shots.
“Everybody is asking why Jamaica, as such a little country and reach so far, unlike America where they have their big stadiums and fancy doctors,” he said. “But I think the main answer is from school competitions. We looked at how the athletes started running, how difficult it was for them and how some had to walk to training each day to try to make it into a big track star. How strong the culture in schools is and the competition among students of who is better than who and the readiness to compete.”
Outside of the obvious wins at the Olympics, music forms an important part of the film with a soundtrack boasting artistes such as Etana, Big Youth, Desmond Dekker, The Heptones, Malijah, Queen Ifrica and Bob Marley.
According to Garcia-Guereta, he did his best to find songs that suited perfectly each moment, thus when making the long journey to Trelawny to talk with Bolt’s parents The Heptones’ Country Boy plays in the background. As Bolt makes his triumphant run past the finish line, Bob Marley’s Bad Card plays with the apt line “dem a go tyaad fi si mi face.”
Garcia-Guereta also hopes the line will apply to his work as well and was nothing but excited about the upcoming festival in Miami.
“I know nothing about American culture or music and here I am going to their awards,” he said. “I know the film is pretty, but I really never expected this. If they are fair, then I will win because the trailer for the film has been getting an amazing response on YouTube, more so than the other two entries and I hope I will get the support of the Jamaicans living in Miami. The most important thing is that my next documentary on dancehall will also become a trademark of Jamaica.”
The producer’s next docu-mentary on dancehall music is titled Hit Me With Music.
Why Do Jamaicans Run So Fast? premiered on Spanish television station Canal (plus) in January. It also marked the opening of the Kingston On The Edge Urban Arts Festival at the Redbones the Blues Café in St Andrew last Friday.