Growing up in Trinidad & Tobago as a track and field fan in the late 1950s and early 60s, Selwyn Jacobs was familiar with most of the world’s top sprinters. With few exceptions, they were mainly Americans.
When Harry Jerome was named to take part in the twin-island republic’s Southern Games nearly five decades ago, Jacob’s interest peaked because the name did not resonate with him. He was further surprised to discover that Jerome was Canadian.
Jerome did not show up for the T & T meet, but the fan and the then retired athlete met in the late 1960s when Jerome – who was employed with Canada’s Ministry of Sport – paid a visit to the University of Alberta where Jacob was pursuing Physical Education studies.
By then, Jacob was fully aware of Jerome’s exploits. On campus, he observed there was a bias against Jerome and he took exception to a professor who constantly referred to Jerome as the athlete who quit.
Prior to the 1960 Rome Olympics, Canadian sports writers had established Jerome as the favourite to win the sprint gold medal. But when an injury in the pre-race heat forced him to withdraw, the mainstream media branded him a quitter.
Jacob went on to study Cinematography and he was determined to set the record straight. Three years ago, he produced Mighty Jerome, a feature length documentary chronicling the rise, fall and redemption of Jerome who set seven world track records and helped to create Canada’s sports ministry before succumbing to a brain aneurysm in 1982 at age 42.
The movie has garnered recognition and several awards, including a Northwest Regional Emmy for Best Historical Documentary. The National Film Board movie aired on Seattle’s public television station KCTS, making it eligible for the American TV awards. Jerome attended the University of Oregon which is about a three-hour drive from Seattle.
Jacob, who lives in British Columbia, said he’s not surprised by the honours.
“I have gone to a number of screenings in the past two years and I have seen how people are responding,” he told Share. “It has been in almost a dozen film festivals and it has showed at several community screenings. Mighty Jerome is a story that has captured the imagination of audiences.”
Last month, the film was recognized with four awards in the Documentary Program or Series category at the 14th annual Leo Awards that celebrate British Columbia film and television excellence. It was also nominated in the Best Sports Documentary category for a Focal International Award that celebrates the use of footage archive images in the creative media.
Jacob and diverse filmmaker Vic Sarin are co-producing Crazywater that echoes Native voices on addiction and recovery. He’s also producing a film – Hue – that’s a documentary that weaves together personal journeys, historical facts and expert analysis to show the world through the eyes of those touched by the issue of “colourism”.
The film, directed and written by Sarin, features Jamaican-born Joyce Gladwell, the mother of celebrated writer and author, Malcolm Gladwell. She grew up in Jamaica as a “brown face” in a country where Black and White are at opposite ends of the social scale.
By RON FANFAIR