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Nile Saulter - Finding His Voice Behind the Lens

Nile Saulter's work is being exhibited in New Roots: 10 Emerging Artists

To many, the short, dark rotund man peddling pillows in Barbican Square, is just a regular figure on the streets of Kingston. One of the many Jamaicans who follow their entrepreneurial leanings in a small time selling on the streets. Yet for up and coming Jamaican filmmaker Nile Saulter, it was a story waiting to be told.

Nile Saulter is among the cadre of young artists whose works are currently being showcased in the New Roots exhibition of emerging talent currently being staged at the National Gallery of Jamaica, in Downtown Kingston. Saulter’s contribution to New Roots is the short film ‘Pillow Man’ a documentary which takes a look at the life of the ‘pillow man’ while showing how important a part a pillow plays in our most intimate relationships.

“That guy is the most ubiquitous figure that I've seen in Kingston since I moved here,” Saulter says.

“It’s such an intimate thing, so I wondered who would want to reach out of their car and buy pillows,” Saulter said explaining his desire to paint an intimate portrait of his subject. “I wanted to know what that guy’s house looked like, what his process was like.”

So ‘Pillow Man’ is part documentary, part narrative fiction, allowing the two forms to blend to bring into stark focus a person that many would pass with only a momentary glance, while showing how his livelihood intersects with our lives. In keeping the title ‘Pillow Man’ thus echoing the tradition of renaming in which peddlers become named according to their professions, Saulter retains this illusion of anonymity even while painting this intimate portrait.

Saulter's Coast and The Young Sea are in the anthology film Ring Di AlarmSaulter, admits that he is still in the process of finding his narrative style, though he believes that the closest he has come thus far are in Coast and The Young Sea two short films that are part of the 7-part anthology work Ring Di Alarm, produced by New Caribbean Cinema, of which he is a part.

“I think I'm still in the process of finding [my style],” Saulter says. “Those films [Coast and The Young Sea] are the two pieces of work that made me feel I would look back and be satisfied.”

He explains that he has grown significantly since his first film ‘Forward’ and has been racking up a body of short films including films on high fashion.

“I'm learning better ways to do things. I'm a lot more confident now,” says the young filmmaker.

Saulter also reveals that he has completed a feature film script that he is hoping to get made. With the orking title Transient, a road movie about identity. He says that he is currently aiming to produce a trailer for the art house styled drama suspense, to help raise funds for the making the film.

He knows however, that the move toward an art house film is a break with traditional Jamaican filmmaking.

“I want to create the space,” Saulter says. “I think Jamaican audiences are a lot more savvy that people give them credit for.”

“I'm not into the big bombastic over the top pieces,” he continues.

A significant part of his growth as a filmmaker, comes with growing more comfortable with the shadow that his older brother Storm Saulter (Better Mus Come) has already cast in the Caribbean film world.

“The truth of the matter is, just based on when I was born and that we are in the same field, there is a bit of a shadow,” he says. But as each short film project took him closer to what he has in common with his brother as well as the ways in which they are different, the shadow does not dim his vision.

“Now I feel that we have very different things to say,” Nile Saulter says with a smile. And with insightful work shown in Pillow Man his confidence in his strengthening voice must rest easy.