A new documentary on the 1976 revolutionary Carnival masquerade band Paradise Lost, the first Trinidad band designed by Peter Minshall, has just been released, premiering last month (September 2015), at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival to sold out audiences and the Caribbean Tales festival in Toronto on September 14 at the Royal Theatre.
This film details the creation of the band that forever changed mas making in Trinidad, stunning audiences when it took to the stage in the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Awarded band of the year and Peter Samuel as the king won as well, the band is legendary. Roy Boyke, photographer and editor of the annual Trinidad Carnival magazine noted, “It is doubtful that the work of any single individual has had so searing an impact on the consciousness of an entire country.”
Paradise Lost: The Documentary traces this famous band from concert to creation, from designs to living embodiment in the masqueraders. It tells the evolution of Minshall’s art at this pivotal point in his career, how veteran band leader Stephen Lee Heung sought out Minshall after a long relationship with artist and designer Carlyle Chang to take his band in a new direction.
Lee Heung had seen the 1974 costume that Minshall had created for the famous Hummingbird costume he created in 1974 for his adoptive sister Sherry-Ann Guy. He went to England to bring home this young talent who was working as a theatre designer in London and in 1975 had designed a band called To Hell With You for Notting Hill Carnival. Minshall made the leap from that band to take on in mas one of the classics in literature, John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost. Conceived in four movements, the end result was as epic as the poem, theatre on the streets telling a rich narrative in movement with angels and devils, and the rich Garden of Eden itself with Satan as its king!
From Paradise Lost, Minshall went on to create one memorable Trinidad Carnival band after another while also moving onto the international stage with opening ceremonies for the Olympics in 1992, 1996 and winter Olympics in 2002 as well as numerous other events.
Director Christopher Laird was on the streets of Port of Spain that Carnival and was one of those that was amazed and blown away with the band. He later filmed Minshall’s bands and interviewed him many times. This new documentary grew out of the launch last year of the book of George Tang photos which Ray Funk had put together, We Kind ah People a collection of George Tangs photographs of his cousin Stephen Lee Heung’s carnival bands. At the book launch at NALIS last September, Peter Minshall kindly narrated the ten minutes of previously unseen footage that Tang had taken of this band where he had documented every section of the band. Inspired by this footage, Minshall agreed to work with Laird and Funk to create this film. Long buried design drawings for the band were located and the film brings the band from concept to creation.
Director Laird premiered his last documentary, a feature film on stickfighting, No Bois Man No Fraid, at the 2013 Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival. Working with Banyan and Gayelle he has filmed, edited, produced over 300 documentaries, dramas and other video productions with over the past 35 years garnering a score of national, regional and international awards. In 2003 he founded, with Errol Fabien, the region’s first all Caribbean free to air television station, Gayelle. In 2009 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of the West Indies and has previously served as the Chairman of the Board of the Trinidad & Tobago Film Company. The Banyan Archives which has recently been digitized is the world’s largest visual study collection of Caribbean culture.
The thirty five minute film is directed by Christopher Laird, produced by Christopher Laird and Ray Funk, with Peter Minshall and George Tang as Associate Producers. DVDs and BlueRay versions will be available after the screenings. These DVDs and BluRays feature additional interviews with Peter Samuel on his role as king of the band, George Tang on the filming of the original footage of the band in 1976, and masmakers Pascal Rankisson, Kendall DePeiza, and Lari Richardson. The film is distributed By Caribbean Tales Worldwide distribution.
For further information, contact Christopher Laird at banyan@pancaribbean. Com or call 681-0175 or 625-6339.
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