Two music documentaries on the rise of calypso, and its pioneers from Sparrow to Lord Superior, held the spotlight in New York’s Carnival activities last week, held virtually because of the covid19 pandemic.
Calypso Dreams and The Glamour Boyz Again, which star Sparrow (Slinger Francisco) and the late Lord Superior (Andrew Marcano) were among the highlights of events hosted by the JouvayFest Collective in Brooklyn, ahead of the main festival day, tomorrow.
Coordinator Sandra A M Best said the films were chosen because of the importance to educate the diaspora on the history of TT culture, especially calypso.
“We will present the films as often as we can to the community because they give an honest and intricate glimpse into the minds of our great calypsonians who we sometimes take for granted,” said Best, in a release on the documentaries.
The two films were also featured in last month’s virtual Caribana celebrations in Canada, sponsored by CaribbeanTales Worldwide Distribution and the Toronto Caribbean Carnival.
Composer and TV personality Alvin Daniell saw the choice of Calypso Dreams as a “joyful relief from covid19 restrictions.”
“Calypso Dreams, in particular, represents a documentary that was captured at a time when we were about to lose most of our icons of calypso,” said Daniell, a co-producer on the film. “It was and still is timely, and it is heartening to see the continued interest it generates worldwide. Nothing like it will ever be produced again.”
Filmed in TT over a three-year period in the early 2000s, Calypso Dreams has played to widespread international acclaim. It was named Best Caribbean Film at the Jamerican Film Festival, while it went on to win the Audience Favourite Award at the Washington DC International Film Festival.
The late US-based film critic Michael Oliver-Goodwin named Calypso Dreams one of the top films of the decade (2000s), calling it “by far and away the best film ever made about calypso.” It was lauded at an academic film conference in Florida as “the most important cinematic expression [ever to come] out of Trinidad and Tobago.”
Calypso Dreams pays homage to a number of late TT calypsonians, including Lord Superior, Kitchener, Spoiler, Duke, Melody, Lord Pretender, Mighty Terror, Blakie, Lion, Ras Shorty I, Conqueror, Striker, Power, Brother Akil, and Mystic Prowler.
Produced by Geoffrey Dunn, Daniell, Superior (who died in 2018), Michael Horne, Mark Schwartz and Eric Thiermann, the film also includes performances by living legends Lord Relator, Crazy, Calypso Rose, Black Stalin, Bomber, Brother Valentino, Gypsy, Regeneration Now, Singing Sandra, Poser, Explainer, Mudada, Trinidad Rio, Scrunter and Sugar Aloes. Clyde “Lightning” George provided pan arrangements. Dunn noted that Carla Foderingham, former CEO of the TT Film Company, “played a critical role during production.”
Over the last 15 years, the film has gone on to be selected for first-tier film festivals throughout Europe, North America, South America and the Caribbean. Regionally, it was featured as part of the First Traveling Caribbean Film Showcase, touring some 17 countries, including Jamaica, Barbados, Antigua, Guyana, Belize, St Maarten, St Lucia, and Suriname.
It was also featured at a World Cultural Forum sponsored by the United Nations in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Associate producers of Calypso Dreams included Sonja Dumas, Lutalo Makossa Masimba (Brother Resistance), and Dawad Philip. Barbados-based Guyanese singer/songwriter Eddy Grant served as executive producer.
Narrative for the film was provided by Dr Hollis Liverpool (Chalkdust), David Rudder and Masimba, while Cro Cro, Denyse Plummer and Shereen Caesar supplied supplemental commentary. Liverpool, Ray Funk and George Maharaj served as historical consultants, while Cathy George of the Bertie Marshall Pan provided additional support.
Celebrated TT novelist Earl Lovelace has praised the film as “a cinematic monument to calypso.”