Pensacola man shares life story and wins ‘Best Documentary’ at film festival

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PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — Pensacola native Jermaine Williams has been there and done it all. From rapping to drug addictions, and he’s now a renowned documentary film maker, activist and author. 

His story, struggles, and triumphs landed him the best documentary award at the IBDFF Toronto Film Festival.

Williams tells WKRG, “I grew up in Pensacola and grew up on the westside, but one of the things at the age of 14 and all the way up into my adult years, I was a stand-out rapper and was part of a group called 5 Play.” 

Williams says that’s when the drug abuse started for him.

“You know the rockstar lifestyle takes over you, and you know, I have an addictive personality. Later on, that I found out,” Williams said.

His hardcore lifestyle was also stemming from other issues.

“I have one of the best families in the world, and that’s not a cliché,” Williams said. “I had my dad die when I was 6… All I had to lean on was my older brother, who was only 18 months older than me… so it was just boys trying to become men.”

Williams says he reached his breaking point and eventually checked himself to rehab, found the Lord, and turned his life around. Eventually, he found the courage to make a documentary, which took about five years to put together.  

“I’ve watched that documentary 60 times,” Williams tells WKRG. “My therapist earns his money because… ahh the PTSD. There is one clip in the documentary my brother talks about how disappointed he was of me. And the camera pointed to my face, and I was staring off, and it looked like I was about to break down, and that’s how I feel every time watching it.”

As hard as is to look back at his past, Williams says it’s time to be transparent in order to help others. Also, he never will forget where he came from. 

“Pensacola has made contributions and has made great splashes in the world, and just to be right next to them is amazing, and love to represent what Pensacola is and what we stand for and how strong we are,” Williams said.

Watch “I Have to Change” here. Williams’ book, “My brother, The Devil, and Me,” can be found here.

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