Dir: Gael Leiblang,United States, 90mins, 2011
Cast: Usain Bolt
Review by James Arthur Armstrong
This documentary is an intimate portrait of athlete Usain Bolt, aptly named, The Fastest Man In The World. French director Gael Leiblang was given exclusive access to Usain Bolt, and has made this up close and personal documentary with Bolt over the last 12 months as he prepares for the biggest races of his life at the London Olympics. Made with his complete co-operation, we see Bolt in his home environment away from the cameras. Still residing in Kingston, Jamaica, Bolt spends most his down time with his relatives, his best friends and the Jamaican national coach.
Usain Bolt is a naturally gifted athlete. He has broken the world record a staggering three times in his career, over three disciplines (100m, 200m, 4x100m relay). Originally wanting to be a cricketer, it was Bolt’s father who persuaded him to take up athletics, and what a decision that turned out to be. Bolt is an icon. Not just in his discipline of athletics but a global sporting product. It is hardly surprising that this profile of the so-called Lightning Bolt, multiple record-breaker and multiple Olympic medallist, oozed with awe and dripped with reverence. Getting a film crew inside the Bolt entourage presumably depends on an understanding, that the world’s greatest sprinter isn’t going to be portrayed as a buffoon. The arc of the narrative centers around the searching question, ‘Can Usain Bolt fulfill his destiny and become a legend?’ The only downside to the answer to that question is, the previous 58 minutes of documentary, director Gael Leiblang, is constantly telling us how Bolt is already an unprecedented god-like genius.
Bolt himself, saves the documentary. His endearingly cocky personality holds out quite well throughout. You never get bored or angry at the man’s huge self confidence. Quite the opposite, you warm to him. You realise that his cocky persona is a way to deflect the limelight and pressure off himself. He is totally aware of his ability and place in sporting history, but with his inflated ego comes a humane side. He’s a normal guy who likes the simple things in life and has a infectious sense of humour. There are plenty of funny moments in this documentary as well as plenty of sequences of Bolt in action to remind you of his astounding gifts.
The only down side to this documentary is it doesn’t show some of the struggles that Bolt has to go through daily. Unknown to the viewer, Bolt suffers from a curvature of the spine, which has led to him adjusting his running style over the years as well as going through intense physiotherapy before and after athletic events. All in all, this is a decent insight into the world record breaking life of the greatest athlete ever, but a few missed opportunities leave this documentary feeling a little incomplete.