Calypso Dreams -the Movie
By Terry Joseph
...World Premiere at Mill Valley Film Fest
September 07, 2003
Movie makers Geoffrey Dunn and Michael Horne yesterday confirmed that their long-awaited film, Calypso Dreams will have its world premiere at the prestigious Mill Valley Film Festival in Northern California on Tuesday, October 7.
Dubbed the "Sundance film festival of the West Coast," Mill Valley is recognised internationally as a high-profile cinematic event, celebrating the best of independent international cinema and is again this year expected to attract some of the most adventurous movie projects.
Filmed on location in Trinidad and Tobago over the last three years, Calypso Dreams captures acoustic performances by a host of legendary performers, including the Mighty Sparrow, Calypso Rose, Lord Superior, Mighty Duke, Black Stalin, Mighty Bomber, Lord Blakie, Brother Valentino, Relator, Gypsy, Sugar Aloes, Regeneration Now, Mystic Prowler,
Singing Sandra, Mighty Terror, Striker, Power, Poser, Scrunter and Explainer.
The movie also pays homage to recently deceased calypsonians, including Grandmaster Kitchener and Lord Pretender, with Chalkdust, David Rudder and Brother Resistance providing narrative. Superior and well-known calypso lyricist Alvin Daniell served as co-producers.
Speaking from their California home, Dunn said he is thrilled that the film, a rough cut of which was adjudged Best Caribbean Documentary Film at last year's Jamerican Film Festival in Montego Bay, is finally coming to fruition. "There have been many challenges in making this film," he said, "but we've been wonderfully assisted by friends of calypso around the world. My dream is that it elevates international recognition of calypso and that the great calypsonians of Trinidad and Tobago will finally be recognised for the magnificent, talented artists they are."
Horne, who has been coming to Trinidad for nearly 20 years and has played pan with both Invaders and Renegades, initially approached the award-winning filmaking duo of Dunn and co-producer Mark Schwartz 17 years ago with the idea of making the movie, but it was the sudden passing of Roaring Lion, Sundar Popo, Ras Shorty I and Kitchener that made them decide it was now or never.
"Mill Valley also provides us with the perfect festival to launch the film," said Dunn who, along with cinematographer Eric Thiermann and Horne, lives in Northern California. "The launch being so close to our home, we will be able to closely monitor all aspects of the premiere. It is also close enough to the mainstream Hollywood film industry, so that top-notch distributors will be in attendance."
In addition to the premiere, the festival has agreed to showcase an evening of calypso music at the legendary Sweetwater Saloon, one of Northern California's most popular music venues. For the showcase, Calypso Rose and Crazy have already been contracted to perform. Plans are being finalised to have them joined by four other performers, including Superior.
"In essence, we are hoping to put in place a music tour that will accompany the film's premiere across the globe," said Horne, an already established music producer and promoter in the US. "The Sweetwater gig will set the stage for the tour, which we envisage as being similar to the long-running international tour of the Buena Vista Social Club. The contingent will comprise a revolving cast, including six of the veterans profiled in the film.
"It is designed to give the feel of a roving kaiso tent, with rootsy performances set against a back up band in the Syl Dopson genre, featuring each of the calypsonians performing several of their classics, beginning with a dozen shows in the US next spring and coupled with an educational component in the form of a lobby store and information booth offering for sale, individual cds and other material by the touring artists as well as information about tourism, culture and travel to Trinidad and Tobago," Horne said.
The marketing job is all uphill. Dunn said he has not met a single American who ever heard of The Mighty Spoiler, but hopes to fix that. "The film has great characters and great music," he said, "so the real trick lies in making final cut work for American audiences. This material is still alien to most of them, so we have to spoon-feed it in a palatable way, without losing its fundamentals or the essentials of its appeal."
The film-makers will also be releasing a concurrent soundtrack, comprising actual performances from the film, featuring Blakie, Conqueror and Relator live at the Good Times pub, Superior and Sparrow on the roof of the Hilton, Poser, Brother Mudada, Rose, Explainer, Brother Akil, Trinidad Rio, Scrunter and Crazy at the Pelican, Bomber and Pretender at their homes and Gypsy, Relator and Superior at the Harvard Club.
"We feel we have selected the finest musical moments spent with these stalwarts over the past three years," Horne said. "It is a reward in itself to have finally completed a work we think does justice in capturing some of the energy, heart and soul of the calypsonian on film, and we certainly hope it brings a renewed awareness and appreciation of this unique artform. And my we add our voices to the cry: Long live Kaiso!"