At 3.00 p.m. today, when most of Trinidad was busy picking up kids from school or impatiently eyeing the clock willing the end of the workday to arrive sooner, a decent group of roughly 60-something people gathered at MovieTowne to take in the screening of Mas Man–a film on the work of Peter Minshall. We speculate that the good attendance was prompted not only by people’s desire to see and hear the notoriously mercurial Minshall caught on film, but also by director Dalton Narine, a guest of the festival who is in town and was present in the theatre for the screening of his film and to answer a few questions after.
But before we could take in Minshall and Narine and a whole host of recorded characters in between, we were treated to Suck Meh Soucouyant, Suck Meh–a short film by UWI graduate, Oyetayo Ojoade. After the screening, Bruce Paddington, festival director, gave Ojoade kudos for completing the film while still at UWI. Ojoade, in turn, acknowledged that there are elements of the film that he would still like to work on. He then addressed the audience directly: “If you give me the funding needed, I promise I’ll finish the film.”
Narine was up next and answered the first question on how long it took to make the film. “Five years,” he answered, “Working with Minshall and unearthing all the facets of an artist who digs deep into his soul and pulls out the devils and angels.” Narine then quipped that, with the material left over, he could write three novels and have some left over. He also spoke about the fact that getting archival footage of Minshall’s bands proved to be a problem, as the government of T&T; had “spirited away” 1st generational footage, which meant that he had to clean up 2nd generational footage which, of course, is less preferable.
Another patron posed a question to Narine: “You took a risk in the film by addressing Minshall’s race, why didn’t you also take a risk and address his sexuality?” A buzz and shuffling in the crowd, and the Narine answered by saying that there are only 87 minutes of film and 26/27 bands to cover (all of which he couldn’t cover due to time constraints) and that he didn’t want to waste any valuable time on something that had little to nothing to do with the essence of Minshall as an artist.
And then the question that everyone was waiting for (whether they knew it or not): What was Minshall’s reaction to the film? Narine informed us that, at first, people at the T&T; Art Society warned him not to show Minshall the film, as that would be equal to the kiss of death. Narine ignored this advice and showed it to him anyway and Minshall took it well enough and had a few reasonable editorial suggestions and corrections. Narine made these but then, after the film was screened privately at NALIS earlier this year, there was “hell to pay,” according to the director. He spoke of the difference in looking at work in an isolated environment rather than when you’re surrounded by people; that the latter situation allows one to recognise his or her own shortcomings. Minshall hasn’t spoken to him Since Carnival Sunday. “Is that why he’s not here at the screening?” someone else asked. “I think so,” Narine replied.
The last thing Narine spoke of was the need to document local individuals of merit and that there exist no films on Cipriani, Butler, Crawford, Williams, and a host of other, noteworthy people who have, in some way, contributed to our islands. Narine is pioneering in his documentation of Minshall, and he spoke of the need for fledgling filmmakers to pick up the mantle of telling our own stories.
If you missed Narine and Ojoade today, have no fear, they will be present at the second screening of Suck Meh Soucouyant and Mas Man, which takes place at MovieTowne Trinidad next Tuesday, September 22 at 3.00 p.m.
Director Oyetayo Ojoade speaks while the credits roll