Saturday, February 24, 2018

'Carnival in the Fifties'

Trinidad premiere of the film 'Calypso Carnival'


ORIGINAL PAN: A steelband of the 50s.

(BI) Feedloader User


OLD TIME MAS: Masques were a must in the Carnival of yesteryear.

(BI) Feedloader User

Today at 4 p.m. at the AV room at the National Library at Hart & Abercomby Streets in Port of Spain, the Academy at UTT and the Heritage Library at Nalis are co-sponsoring a free presentation Carnival in the Fifties.

This short film made in 1953 by Fritz Henle on Trinidad Carnival that has not been seen in over 50 years. The programme will also feature other footage of Carnival in the Fifties including home movies. This will be a unique chance to see what mas, pan and calypso looked and sounded like over half a century ago.

The programme will be hosted by Ray Funk, the Alaskan judge who is an honourary fellow of the Academy, and Dr Kim Johnson whose Audacity of the Creole Imagination exhibit was a hit at the National Museum earlier this year.

Fritz Henle (1909-1993) the director came to Trinidad for Carnival in 1951 on a photo shoot assignment from Holiday magazine. He returned to shoot this film during the two days of 1952 Carnival. Henle and his editor Bob Sosenko put it together over the next several months. Shown in theatres in the US and Europe it was released through Universal-International under the titles Calypso Carnival and Carnival in Trinidad. Since then it disappeared and only a few copies are known to exist in places like the Swedish Film Archives and the Library of Congress in the US.

Fritz Henle was a German-born, American-based photographer who became a top fashion photographer in New York and worked extensively for Life and other magazines. He is known for his photographs of Pablo Casals and Frieda Kahlo. He also published 19 books. He found himself drawn to the Caribbean starting in the forties, published a book first on the Virgin Islands, later a book called The Caribbean; a Journey With Pictures in 1957 and eventually moved to St Croix in the US Virgin Islands. A major exhibit of his photography "Fritz Henle: In Search of Beauty" was held at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Centre at the University of Texas at Austin in 2009.

The University of Texas sought a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation to restore and digitise this film as part of an effort by the University of Texas to preserve all of Fritz Henle's films. The restoration was just completed earlier this summer and through the assistance of film curator Steve Wilson at the University of Texas this will be the first public showing of the film. Plans are under way to make it available on the web later this year.

The results are stunning. It is brilliantly restored in bright colours with excellent sound. "The film is an exciting addition to the few films that survive of Carnival in the 1950s. The colour is spectacular and the artistic eye of the director makes this a joy to watch," Ray Funk said. There are great shots of bats, a wonderful set of midnight robbers, a number of vivid historical bands including Harold Saldenah's Ancient Rome, Quo Vadis as well as Queen's Heralds and Aristocrats of the Sixteenth Century but the piece de resistance is a detailed look at Invaders steelband seen in full military mas. The music for the film was provided by Ralph MacDonald's father, the New York-based calypsonian Macbeth the Great.

Part of the purpose of the programme, Dr Kim Johnson notes is to have the public help in identifying who's who in the bands and the various masqueraders in these films.

For further information, contact

Ray Funk at 721-4001