Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 21st 2014 Contents MARK LYNDERSAY
There s a moment right in the mid-
dle of Pan, the new film about
the national instrument written
by Kim Johnson and directed by Jerome
Guiot that summarises all the hopes that
the creative team have for their subject.
The film s lead, Renaldo Frederick, playing
Goldteeth, is walking across an impossibly
beautiful forest clearing, lush green as far
as the eye can see, his raw, unfinished
instrument in a burlap sack slung over his
Frederick s back is to us. He is walking
away from a troubled past to a verdant
future rich with potential. His instrument,
the source of all his hopes, just a weighty
promise in its rough container, a burden,
by every possible definition of the word.
But the actor s walk is confident and sure
as he puts one foot in front of the other
heading into an unknown future.
It would be wonderful if we could con-
sider this an attractive artifact out of the
past of the steelband, but it s also a startling
reminder that more than a century after
the instrument s invention, it is still to find
itself on the other side of that field, properly
positioned against and among all the musi-
cal instruments of the world.
At least part of the reason for that is
abundantly on show in the film, which
chronicles both a fictional condensation of
the many trials and challenges that the
steelpan had on its path to becoming a
mainstream musical instrument in this
country and a documentary update on
where the steelband movement finds itself
The weaving of two such wildly divergent
stories dovetails more neatly that any story
treatment might have suggested. The chal-
lenges and issues that served to advance
the acceptance and improvement of the
instrument have also worked to create a
bureaucracy that keeps it from soaring even
Johnson pays close attention to what his
documentary is recording, and deftly tailors
the narrative of his fictional history to more
smoothly fit into the flow of the real world
footage, which follows the parallel stories
of Phase II Pan Groove, Neal and Massy
All Stars and Birdsong as they prepare for
the 2013 Panorama competition.
The filmmakers and I crossed paths cor-
dially in Phase II s panyard in January of
that year as the band began pulling its pans
together to rehearse the composition by
arranger Len "Boogsie" Sharpe that would
eventually win the competition.
We both had to run the gauntlet of the
band s management in securing permission
to proceed with our projects, my own pres-
entation being in support of a photo essay
on the Phase II journey to the big yard.
Such executive imprimatur did not guar-
antee acceptance for me, however. Pan men
tend to be deeply suspiscious of people
with cameras. They are smart enough to
know our little magic boxes don t steal
souls, but savvy enough to realise that they
are perfectly capable of capturing and trans-
porting the soul of what they do into medi-
ums far from their control.
Eventually, after publication of my piece
(http://ow.ly/EgNrl), I earned some kind
words from some of the band s pannists
who had earlier given me the stinky eye.
I can only imagine the magnification in
scale of their appreciation of the efforts of
Kim Johnson, whose great love for the steel-
band permeates the film.
Faced with the challenge of condensing
a monolithic history for an instrument that
is so deeply rooted in the culture of T&T
that it would be impenetrable to all save
the most committed non-locals, Johnson
His characters are stand-ins for multiple
persons, sometimes dozens of them, who
were all working in different ways to
improve both the instrument and the lot
of its musicians.
The many stories of the movement s slow
but steady drift from the fringes of society
to its heart are implied quickly and briskly
through the experiences of Goldteeth and
his brother, the many clashes condensed
into two fights, the troubled relationship
between the colonial elite and the citizenry
become a lawyer s intervention with a mag-
istrate to save a young boy from jail.
The result is a film that hums along
briskly, skipping like a stone across a vast
pond of history to weave the two skeins of
As Johnson argued at a private viewing
of the film a week ago, it is a pan film, not
the pan film, just one in what he hopes
will be many more that tell the remarkable
story of the instrument and the people who
What Pan! Our Musical Odyssey emerges
as most successfully is a first effort by local
talents to tell one of our most remarkable
stories. The film is a heartfelt effort to offer
the story of the steelband from our point
of view, freed of the romance and patronage
of first world perspectives.
Bono, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck,
Morgan Freeman and The Walking
Dead actress Danai Gurira are among
the celebrities playing the waiting
game in a new online campaign calling
for a unified response to the Ebola epi-
demic in West Africa.
In a video posted Wednesday, stars
such as Will Ferrell, Thandie Newton
and Connie Britton stare silently into a
camera to illustrate that they re still
waiting for world leaders to fight Ebola,
which has killed more than 5,000 peo-
ple in the West African countries of
Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.
"The waiting is causing the issue to
propel itself," Gurira said. "I thought it
was a very powerful way to get that
message across that we do need action.
Sitting and waiting can lead to more
Other stars appearing in the One
Campaign s two-minute video include
Vincent Cassel, Akon, Ellie Goulding,
German soccer star Per Mertesacker
and African musicians Fally Ipupa, An-
gelique Kidjo, Femi Kuti and Ice Prince.
They re joined by Liberian health care
workers Dr J Soka Moses and Louise
• Twitter: @GuardianTT • Web: guardian.co.tt
Bono, Affleck stay silent in ad on Ebola response
Two of the key men behind the movie Pan! Our Music Odyssey are producer Jean Michel Gibert and writer Kim Johnson.
A review of the film Pan, Our Music Odyssey
Continues on Page B2
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