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The life of Walter Rodney explored in new documentary

PICTURED: Walter Rodney (Photo credit: Caribbean 360)

SINCE 2016, the Department of History and Archaeology, UWI-Mona has been working on a documentary film on the student years of Guyanese revolutionary and former lecturer in the department, Dr. Walter Rodney.

The project is intended as a record of the early life and intellectual development at the UWI of one of the Caribbean’s most iconic voices. Equally, the film is a tribute to the Caribbean during the pivotal early years of the 1960s, when it was breaking free from colonialism, defining its identity, and grappling with the meaning of independence.

The film takes an unconventional approach, drawing on text written by Rodney as a student at the UWI, many of which have only been uncovered during research for the project. Rodney’s words form a narrative thread throughout the film and are read in voiceover by a young Guyanese student at the Mona campus.

By any measure Walter Rodney was an exceptional person even in his youth. Between the years 1960-1963 when he studied History in Jamaica, he bore witness to rapid changes in the region.

He was a firm supporter of the Federation of the West Indian islands, a stellar debater, witnessed independence in Jamaica in 1962, and participated actively in student life. In addition, he was unusually well traveled, visiting Cuba, Russia, the United States, England, and touring the Caribbean all during his student years. These experiences powerfully shaped his intellectual course and committed him to the revolutionary path he would eventually pursue.

To visually tell this story, the film uses archival footage from Cuba, Jamaica, Guyana, and the United Kingdom and joins this material with evocative new footage of the UWI campus shot for the production.

Former colleagues of Rodney’s at High school in Guyana and at Mona were also interviewed in the film and help provide a deeper context to his life as a student. Animation and cutting edge graphics are also employed. The film’s soundtrack draws heavily on music of the period with Guyanese folk songs, Jamaican Ska, Rastafari Nyabinghi drumming and Trinidadian Calypso—all songs that would have been popular among Rodney’s generation—as the backing soundtrack.

Taken together these elements enhance the film’s power and make it an arresting testament to Rodney’s impact, the influence of Jamaica in shaping a global figure, and the force of Caribbean history.


The film will have its premiere in Kingston, Jamaica at the University of the West Indies, Mona in the Faculty of Humanities and Education where Walter Rodney received his undergraduate education.

The event will take place in the evening of February 13, 2018 as part of the University’s Homecoming Week celebrations.

Its next screening will be on March 10 at the British Film Institute as part of their African Odyssey series of films, and will be hosted by Guyana Speaks and will feature a panel discussion on Rodney and the film following the screening.

Other screenings are being planned for Atlanta at the Walter Rodney Foundation Symposium, March 24-25, and New York, Washington D.C., Trinidad, and Toronto.

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