Film Director Fiction: Jérôme Guiot
How do you share the extraordinary universe of pan today without speaking about it’s origins? How to understand the passion that moves a whole country and the international enthusiasm created by Panorama without understanding the story of the men who through their struggle, carried the destiny of this new instrument.
To answer these questions is the main objective of the fictional story of “PAN ! A Modern Odyssey” but this is not all.
It is above all, to share this extraordinary human adventure. A story of tenacity and creativity. A story of the capability to adapt. A story of human beings, and it’s through these humans that we will live the story and not by just watching factual events.
To do this, we have decided to move away from the traditional reconstitution narrative, to instead follow the course of a fictional character, Goldteeth. He is going to move through a crucial period in the evolution of the instrument and will have to deal with the big musical and ethical questions of the pioneers of the steelband movement.
As such, we have chosen to focus on the narrative of a very specific time phase in the history of pan: the introduction of the pan as we know it today, born out of the transformation of 55 gallon oil drums at the end of 1940’s, up to the first Panorama at the beginning of the 1960’s.
In the fictional part, the film focuses on the birth of the instrument but more so on the major impact this had on the Trinidadian society, the pan was a vector of peace in the urban violence in Port of Spain.
As such, in the beginning of the 1960’s, urban gangs, already musically oriented but violent, were able to put down their arms after years of fighting. They themselves created the framework of the musical competition that will allow them to channel their rivalry. It’s this break through that allows the creation of the steelband association, the musical expeditions of TASPO and of all the Panoramas that Trinidad has ever lived.
From a cinematographic point of view, we will treat visually these time periods for what they were. Violent times, but also characterized by the intrinsic diversity of the Trinidadian population. The direction will therefore be raw, real, and uncompromising but also bringing an authentic poetic vision of what is the essence of passion, the origins of the technique, the universality of human relations.
The lighting treatment will be based a lot on the splendid natural lighting of Trinidad.
The calibration will have a very modern approach: low key lights slightly raised, high lights not burnt out and washed out tones based on a matt approach and the pastel colours of the costumes and décor.
For the framing, the human aspect will be at the heart of the matter. I will privilege the faces and the attitudes of our characters to stick as much as possible to the human adventure. All this, without hesitating to deviate the eye of the spectator to contextual and human details of the Port of Spain of 40-60’s.
The film will be shot in 1,77 format with a camera sensor 35mm (RED or Arri Alexa) for a soft and cinematographic depth of field. Part of these scenes will be shot in slow motion to accentuate the graphic and physical aspects of the musical scenes and the Orisha dance scene to bring out the textures and the ambiance.
A strong sound edit in rhythm will be put in place to continually place the natural rhythm of the daily noises in relation with our principal object with is music.
We will be careful to rearrange our music tracks from different time periods and to recreate them on the original instruments with the techniques used back in the day, to find the authenticity of the pan’s musical textures in full evolution.
To conclude, our intention is clair ! To make this film a one and only speech linked by the Human and not by History. The fictional part bringing the keys to the understanding of the main themes brought up by the characters of the documentary but above all, the added soul essential to the correct perception of a historic move.
Film Director Documentary: Thierry Teston
My first encounter with the steel drum dates to my childhood, through a 33” vinyl brought by my parents from a Caribbean trip. A blue cover with a silver drum on it, and an amazing sound, magical and totally incomprehensible despite my mother’s explanations. How you could get such an incredible sound out of a steel container? A fascination was born and every time I recognized the instrument thereafter, in any kind of music, from jazz to rap, electronic and of course calypso, I was always proud to explain the strange voice of the steel drum.
Quarter-century later a producer invites me to direct a film on this instrument and on reading the script I discover a fascinating human adventure, a struggle for the emancipation of a people and their arts, the invention of an instrument in times of war and carnival (two words not usually put together).
There is a competition, the Panorama, in which orchestras of 130 people battle, amongst them Americans, Japanese, French, musicians from the whole world, using weapons of only their hearts and music, before an audience of 30,000 and more. This script made me want to know more, but in fact it was considerably less than the reality.
In Trinidad I felt the incredible vibrations of these philharmonic orchestras. My eyes met those of these people from the whole world, and I discovered the universality of their story, that carries in it the genesis of the all the political and cultural battles of our civilizations: the liberation and the affirmation of the individual through art, in the face of oppression. And to tell this epic through a film that combines documentary and dramatic re-enactments is to get the best of both worlds. Because the destiny of a young man in 1943 stealing an oil drum is similar to the story of a young Japanese girl leaving Tokyo for the first time to play in a steelband halfway around the world in a country she doesn’t know and whose language she cannot speak.
Surrendering to this music is essentially a communion. You do not play this music on a CD, you enter its home and partake of a meal you have helped to prepare. Because every steelband is a united family, where everyone, players and guests alike, eats at the same table, no hierarchy, no class, no race, and everyone is served the same musical work. And in a world so divided and opposed, I cling to such stories of human transcendence.
And that’s why this isn’t a film on steelband music but truly the sojourn of those who forged the instrument and make it live. Through the lives of the present-day characters to the historically-informed ones of our imagination, we shall offer viewers the chance to take a journey of adventure and discovery, to encounter challenges and doubts and be submerged by emotions that haven’t left me since my first night in crazy, kaleidoscopic, continuously-changing Trinidad.
The main word of this project is togetherness, and it is my desire and that of all the players in this film to share the subject with the world. And I am convinced that the links that I have started to weave with my characters are contagious. Esthetically, the instrument and the orchestras and their music possess a rare cinematographic quality that is difficult to confront without experiencing an epiphany. For the re-enactments, all closely based on true historical stories, Trinidad offers set options and huge castings, which will give these scenes the breadth they need.
To make a good film that can change the lives of your audience, you have to be in love with your subject and, I’m sorry to repeat, but that is what happened to me.
Click here to see previous work by this director.