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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that I Am Bolt is an irresistible documentary about Usain Bolt, the Jamaican sprinter who won nine Olympic Gold Medals (in 2008, 2012, and 2016), breaking world records and becoming an icon. Most of the movie consists of scenes of demanding training sessions combined with moments revealing Bolt's charismatic personality and innate intelligence. Audiences are also introduced to the team that works with him. They, too, are delightful, hardworking, and wise. A few instances of profanity ("pissed off," "s--t,") and a couple of short scenes showing Bolt in "party mode" with scantily clad women and sexy dancing are the only sequences that may not be appropriate for younger kids. At its best, this movie is an exciting demonstration of what it takes to be successful. Bolt's natural talent may be unique, but even he says that it's his dedication and work ethic that have enabled him to reach great heights. Audiences can translate Bolt's commitment and positive attitude to just about any challenging task. The film is as inspirational as it is delightful.
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What's the story?
Sprinter Usain Bolt's extraordinary career -- nine Olympic gold medals and numerous world championships -- and the years that led up to them are featured in I AM BOLT, a documentary about the runner known as "the fastest man in the world." While there are no earthshaking hardships that were overcome or staggering disappointments, and the outcomes are well-known to anyone who is aware of the towering Jamaican sports figure, the filmmakers have managed to make the film interesting, mildly suspenseful, and funny, using interviews with other runners and members of Bolt's team and family, with onsite sequences from the Olympic games in 2008, 2012, and 2016 as they happened, and with film clips and other historical records from the early days. The story centers on the incredible amount of preparation and training that are required of Bolt. Long, grueling sessions are relieved by the humor and camaraderie among the players and integrated into a life always in the limelight with little time for extracurricular activities. For solitary moments, the directors wisely handed the camera to Bolt, who enjoys the magic of sustained "selfies."
Is it any good?
This tribute to Usain Bolt, a stunning example of athleticism and determination, doesn't pretend to be an in-depth look at what makes him tick; it's about his humanness, his humor, and his gratitude. Anyone under the assumption that this athlete's natural gifts are the sole reasons for his fame and fortune will be surprised to see that he gives as good as he got. With relentless good humor -- only a few times does his drive come near the edge of falling short -- and the good sense to realize he is "lightning in a bottle," Bolt makes the most of those gifts. He has also been smart enough to gather and retain a team of bright, committed people who help make him good, better, and best. I Am Bolt is a solid documentary, fun to watch and inspirational as it shows what it takes to reach one's full potential. Recommended for tweens and teens, with a caution -- it's long (107 minutes), and there are a few curse words as well as some quick shots of women dancing sensually in bikinis.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the messages in I Am Bolt. Were you surprised by the hard work required for the runner to reach his goals? Or did you think he was simply a very talented athlete who could rely on his natural gifts? What is your takeaway from this message in regard to your own abilities and ambition?
What qualities do you think Usain Bolt's parents instilled in their son? How would you describe their relationship?
How do interviews with Usain's team and family (even with some of his competitors) enrich this film? How is this an example of the expression, "It takes a village"? What does that tell you about all members of a team being important?
Pick one member of Usain's team and describe how that person contributed to the sprinter's success.
- On DVD or streaming: December 6, 2016
- Cast: Usain Bolt, Glen Mills, Serena Williams
- Directors: Benjamin Turner, Gabe Turner
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Sports and martial arts, History
- Character strengths: Courage, Gratitude, Perseverance, Self-control, Teamwork
- Run time: 107 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: language and mild thematic elements
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
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