Review: BUEI Gold Bermudians Documentaries

April 8, 2023 | 0 Comments

[Written by Dale Butler]

Four of the five proposed documentaries about Bermudians who punched above their weight in a variety of international fields were shown Friday, March 31 at BUEI to a very attentive and appreciative audience. Developed by the Department of Culture, the audience enjoyed a six minute appetizer of each person’s life researched and produced as follows:

Michael Frith, Harvard College graduate, director, consultant, designer television producer, filmed by Kyle Simmons

Frith was a co-creator of the hit children’s series Fraggle Rock. His roots grew from ZBM and the Mid-Ocean News to Random House in 1963, rising up the ladder to become Editor-in-Chief of the Beginner Book series, created by Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.

Filmmaker Kyle Simmons used his screen time well to highlight the impact Bermuda caves had on Frith’s work and to give us an insight into his most popular works. Time, however, did not allow the filmmaker to list the myriad of accomplishments of Mr. Frith. You would be most impressed if you Googled him.

Lance Hayward, jazz musician, filmed by Milton Repose of Method Media

With the use of excellent photographs, adverts and commentary, the filmmaker Milton Repose brought Lance to life with key moments of his life in Bermuda, Jamaica, and at the Village Gate in New York, which closed in 1994, three years after Lance died. Musicians Johnny Woolridge, Stan Gilbert and the Professor of Bermuda Music Dale Butler reinforced the fact that Lance was seen as the “God of the jazz piano” who also developed The Lance Hayward Singers. While audio of Lance talking and playing does exist, it is unfortunate that video of his performances have not surfaced to date.

Olympic boxer Clarence Hill, filmed by Marque Rodriguez

During the post-film interview, film-maker Marq Rodriguez remarked, “How do you simmer down a story?” The most highlighted fact about Bermuda’s first Olympic medalist [bronze] was the fact that there was no large entourage of Government and sports officials at the airport to greet him upon his return from Montreal in 1976 when he won the medal.

While Hill was pleased to see his roots from the Pembroke Youth Centre, family and friends once he exited the terminal, he has always begrudged the fact that he did not get a hero’s welcome having trained in Bermuda with barely a sparring partner of merit and with limited resources. Mr. Rodriguez, as a three year graduate in film from India, used black and white film and silence to introduce us to Mr. Hill’s boxing accomplishment, the pain thereby being reinforced.

With comments from Bermudian boxers Troy Darrell, Nikki Bascome and Andre Lamb, the audience was reminded once again that we can do a better job.

Katura Horton-Perinchief, Olympic diver at age 21, filmed by Dion the Creative

The only spokesperson in this short clip was Ms Horton-Perinchief, who did an excellent job at highlighting what being the first black Olympic diver meant to her. As the Minister of Youth and Sport in 2004, I am pleased to say that I was present when she performed in Greece and as she stated “it felt like poetry” when she nailed her fifth and final dive. The filmmaker was able to capture her trials and triumphs. Missing, unfortunately, was footage of her at the Olympics and comments from at least one person who was there.

Minister Senator Owen Darrell stated he was thrilled to be present at the launch of this premiere event because the films captured the “essence…the challenges and obstacles they faced and how they overcame them.” Cultural Officer Katherine Hay, who led this initiative, should be commended for laying the foundation for what is likely to be an annual event that will add to the archives of the Government TV channel CITV and become a part of the school curriculum. No doubt the film on Earl Cameron will be shown at a later date.

The plate served on Friday night was full and the question and answer period led by Rashun Robinson allowed each filmmaker to shine. And no doubt Flora Duffy will be added in the years to come.

The local filmmakers above did not have a crew to assist them or a research arm but still edified the lives of these “Gold Bermudians.”

I have spent numerous hours since my return from university in 1976 capturing the stories of many Bermudians and frequently stating that one day young filmmakers would need such materials to make great films. With my limited experience, I even tried to recruit filmmakers, but getting them to give up free time during the week or do interviews during Cup Match or on May 24th never worked out.

While I did many, I could not do all and now my fear has come true: we have many gaps. There are/were, however, a number of Bermudians using their Brownie Cameras to capture Lance Hayward performing and many others. We have to find them and get their material before it goes in the trash. For example, I have the only copy of a radio interview conducted by Shirley Dill of Lance Hayward in 1978 when he made his sojourn to Bermuda for Cup Match – I had a tape recorder in school and many at home with a mother ready to record upon my instructions.

On a regular basis, photos denied me end up in the trash of the deceased and are picked up from the roads by runners and brought to me. Culture, therefore, would do well to use its resources to encourage Bermudians to donate such materials to them. Culture could also advertise in advance who is being honoured and request information from the public.

I personally had to leave my guests during a function at my home recently to assist a filmmaker with their research on this project. Should such a request be made, I have no doubt that such documentaries will have more live content. It starts by being proactive and it starts with Bermudians sacrificing their time to capture stories in order to avoid saying “somebody should have sat him/her down and captured their story.”

Last but not least, I have no doubt Culture will add Bermudians like Pinky Steede, Joy Blackette, Clyde Best and Professor Milton Marsh, to name but a few, and the use of local music would kill two birds with one stone.

- Dale Butler: Educator, author, historian, and former Minister of Culture is the Professor of Bermuda Music. He is a for-runner of the Oral History movement having been inspired by the late Nellie Musson [Mind the Onion Seed] and June Augustus [Fame Magazine & Bermuda Hall of Fame].

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