Pan Film To Take World By Storm

Article from the Trinidad Express, Trinidad and Tobago
Written by Wayne Bowman

An eight-year-old boy experiences his first Panorama championships having been taken to the Queen’s Park Savannah by his parents for the event. The little fellow is fascinated and in awe of the vast collective of pans, pan racks and pannists milling around preparing to take the big stage and face the judges in the hope of being declared the champion band at the end.

The atmosphere is electric and the child slips away from his parents during an unguarded moment. The next thing the parents know is their son is amongst a crowd of people pushing pan racks across the stage. The pans and their infectious aura had captured his spirit and the boy was suddenly a member of this glorious musical fraternity.

In the years since, the boy—Dr Kim Johnson‑has spent much of his time researching the history and development of the pan and the steelband movement. His work has to date resulted in a number of academic papers, four books and a series of lectures on the instrument and the movement surrounding it.

Now Johnson moves into another stage of his life’s work on the pan through a feature film titled Pan! A Modern Odyssey, the screenplay of which he wrote The core purpose of the film is to promote the pan and steelband movement internationally as well as to brand Trinidad and Tobago as the birthplace and home of pan. The 90-minute production was co-produced by Johnson, Jean Michel Gibert and Barthélémy Fougea. Serving as the director is French filmmaker, Thierry Teston.

The film tells the story of 10-year-old Jevanni, the grandson of the man who founded the Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra. The boy wants to play in the band, but faces a series of challenges to make the cut.

The film also follows the experiences of a French woman named, Eva who desires to play on the night of the Panorama finals, which was the dream of her recently deceased father. Her problem is that the band she was playing in, Birdsong, has been eliminated from the competition and she now needs to learn the tune being played by the band that is offering her a place.

Then there is Raven, a crack-shot pannist who floats from one band to another using a number of aliases to do so. The 19-year-old is, however facing ejection from Phase II Pan Groove, which is his first love and he fights to retain his place, while several people from Japan are trying to get into the band. They can hardly speak English and all made great sacrifices to get to Trinidad hoping to enjoy the experience of playing in the National Panorama finals.

A gifted writer, Johnson weaves through the experiences of the characters while showcasing not only the beauty of the pan and the music that comes out of it, but he is also able to tell the real story of the panman and the depth of dedication he/she has for the instrument, the movement, the music and of course one’s band. Johnson also underscores through the film that Trinidad and Tobago is the birthplace of the pan and its one and only home.

“This project is huge and has gotten even bigger as we continue to move forward. We have encouraged other countries where the steelpan is to produce their own films on the pan and make use of some of the footage we produced. We have over 72 hours of footage. It has begun to pan out. We’ve already received a response from India and they are saying they will have pannists from our film visit India and play with their own musicians. They will also be exploring the spiritual aspect of the instrument and the music,” Johnson said.

Along with the film the project also entails the production of several 52-minute television documentary films on the steelband specific to TV networks in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa, combining footage of pan in those countries with excerpts from Pan! A Modern Odyssey. There is also an interactive website,, that is already up and running as well as a collection of CDs, DVDs, coffee table books, mobile phone apps and more.

The film will have international distribution on a grand scale, which Johnson said will open up the pan and by extension Trinidad and Tobago to millions of people worldwide. Johnson and his team are formulating a global marketing thrust combining international broadcasters, distributors and touring agents to release the film and the ancillary items at main film and music festivals worldwide along with live performances by local steelbands.
“This is the first local film project on the steelpan that will have international distribution. This is branding Trinidad and Tobago and taking us to the international media not with crime and not for e-mails, but for the creativity, innovation, music and talents of our people. We need about one million dollars for the post production, which may seem like a lot, but this includes editing, music score, marketing and more.”

“We can go on the cheap, but that will defeat the purpose, which is to produce and present a first class film to rival any major Hollywood production. Anyone contributing or investing in the project will as you know receives the 150 per cent tax incentive on whatever money they contribute or put in.

We have already put in a lot of work and money into this and at this stage we can only focus on moving forward,” Johnson said.


Co-producer and author Kim Johnson is the world’s foremost expert on the history of pan. An Arts and Letters Laureate of the Anthony Sabga Awards for Excellence and Senior Research Fellow of the Academy of Arts, Letters & Public Affairs of the University of Trinidad & Tobago Johnson has published several books on the culture of Trinidad and Tobago, including four on pan; he has curated an exhibition at the National Museum in Trinidad and lectured at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC on the subject and made one film on pan, The Audacity of the Creole Imagination.

Executive Producer Jean-Michel Gibert, a French-born, naturalised Trinidad and Tobago citizen, heads Caribbean Music Group (CMG). He has worked here for 25 years, and produced several world-class music documentaries, including
Calypso @ Dirty Jim’s; Soca Power and the already-mentioned Calypso Rose: Lioness of the Jungle, which was launched in 2012 at the Cannes Film Festival and placed second in the documentary category of FESPACO, the largest film festival in Africa.

Co-producer Barthélémy Fougea founded the top documentary film company in France, Boreales (, whose The Odyssey of Mankind was the highest income earner for a French documentary film. His recent The Volcano Lovers was a co-production with France Television, National Geographic, NHK Japan and seven other major networks. In 1986 he made a documentary on child prodigy Donnell Thomas, who is now Silver Stars musical director. Fougea also founded Calypsociation, the French Steelband Association, which has entered bands in the Trinidad and Tobago Pan Is Beautiful steelband festival in the 1990s and brought Andy Narrel and 50 French and US players to join Birdsong for the 2013 Panorama. His most recent film, shot in Kenya, India and Morocco, On The Way To School, is being released by Disney.

Read the original article at–World-By-Storm-208917211.html

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    PAN! Our Music Odyssey is a transmedia project promoting the steelband movement internationally with an 80 minute docudrama, telling the human adventure of Pan from its genesis, through reenactment stories, to its propagation all around the world.