Review: ‘Calypso Dreams’

U.S.-produced docu provides a lively overview of a musical form that is the prevailing popular sound of Trinidad and Tobago, as well as the enthusiasm of roots music fans abroad. Co-helmed by nonfiction vet Geoffrey Dunn and music producer Michael Horne, mix of interviews, history and performance has shot at fringe theatrical dates.

This article was corrected on Oct. 29, 2003.

U.S.-produced docu “Calypso Dreams” provides a lively overview of a musical form that is the prevailing popular sound of Trinidad and Tobago, as well as the enthusiasm of roots music fans (and, occasionally, a faddish wide audience) abroad. Co-helmed by nonfiction vet Geoffrey Dunn and prolific music producer Michael Horne, amiable mix of interviews, history and performance has a shot at fringe theatrical dates, with more sustained exposure ahead via home format sales.

Like the blues, calypso sprang from slave culture — called “a poor man’s newspaper” by one observer here, it retains a bent toward impudent social commentary even now, albeit one far more humorous and less despairing than its North American equivalent, rap. Like rap, it also encourages improv and live competition between frontmen (plus a small, growing number of women). Also interviewed, and seen in (mostly acoustic) performance, are a huge scroll of calypso’s surviving legends and new-generation stars, with archival footage adding some late-greats. Harry Belafonte, who popularized the music for 1950s Stateside listeners but was also accused of homogenizing it, looks back on his role in that craze with respectful intelligence. Tech package is well-handled.

Calypso Dreams

Production

An In for a Penny, in for a Pound Prods. presentation. Produced by Geoffrey Dunn, Michael Horne, Mark Schwartz, Eric Thiermann. Co-producers, Alvin Daniell, Sandra Derrell, Andrew Marcano. Directed by Geoffrey Dunn, Michael Horne.

Crew

Camera (color, Betacam), Eric Thiermann; editors, Chris Crosby, Cam Archer, Ian Goodwin, Andrew Bateman, Michael Horne. Reviewed at Mill Valley Film Festival, Oct. 6, 2003. Running time: 82 MIN.

With

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, Explainer, Grandmaster Kitchener, Lord Pretender, Brother Resistance, Harry Belafonte, Roaring Lion, Lord Melody, Conqueror, Lord Funny, Luta, Lord Melody, Shadow, Cro Cro.
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