Portia Simpson Miller's Journey

Film in the works on Jamaica's first female prime minister

BY RICHARD JOHNSON
Observer senior reporter
johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, September 23, 2018

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Film-maker Lennie Little-White is adding another volume to his portraits of Jamaicans who have distinguished themselves is various fields of endeavour.

Having produced two documentaries on cultural icon and scholar the late Professor Rex Nettleford, as well as similar works with national heroes Paul Bogle and George William Gordon; artist Barrington Watson and former prime minister PJ Patterson as the subjects, Little-White is moving is moving on to his next project, Jamaica's first female prime minister Portia Simpson Miller.

“When you consider the heights that Mrs Simpson Miller reached and what she achieved in her life as a public servant, which culminated with her tenure as prime minister, this is something that should be celebrated,” Little-White told the Jamaica Observer.

“Let's just look at the fact that this young girl from Wood Hall in St Catherine, who didn't attend St Andrew or Immaculate High Schools, could navigate her way through the quagmire of politics, which is such a male bastion. Then there are the criticisms of race and social background which she had to face, yet she achieved what no other female had done in history. This needs to be celebrated in as big a way as is possible,” he added.

The team is currently deep into the research and pre-production with Little-White scheduled to sit with the former prime minister in the coming weeks to get her input and perspective. He is projecting a February 2019 release date.

“Mrs Simpson Miller wants the film to reflect as much of her as is possible. For her a particular feature must be its ability to reach the man and woman in the street. It will be a film with some areas being dramatised, but for the most part [it] will utilise documentary techniques to bring the story of this warrior woman who took on the odds and beat them — Portia Simpson Miller's journey — from her perspective. Everybody should be able to find something in this piece to relate to; whether they are watching it on local television or YouTube, JLP or PNP, or you reside in Jamaica, Trinidad, Japan or the United States. One of the things that is important to her is that young people find it to be a source of inspiration. They must watch and walk away with the feeling that they can accomplish whatever they put their minds to. This is very important to Mrs Simpson Miller,” Little-White explained.

The docufilm, which is titled Journey, will also feature what Little-White described as a “smorgasbord of testimonials from local and international personalities”, who are currently being filmed. The production schedule sees the months of December into January dedicated to editing and mixing, ahead of the February release, chosen to coincide with the celebration of Black History Month.

He has hopes of similar projects with prime ministers Shearer, Manley, Seaga and Golding. But first he wants to wrap up discussions with the family of folklorist Louise Bennett-Coverley to obtain certain rights and information to before moving ahead with a project dedicated to her life and work.

Little-White pointed out that his series of portraits on film is his contribution to the documenting of Jamaica's history.

“I was first encouraged to be a film-maker by Carey Robinson , who was then the head of the film unit at JIS (Jamaica Information Service). At the time he was creating productions which highlighted Jamaican history and culture. I see this as my contribution to documenting for the future.”

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