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Carnival film series pays tribute to Brian Honoré

Saturday, January 17, 2015
Carnival 2015
The late Brian Honoré, one of the top Midnight Robbers this country has ever produced. PHOTO: MARK LYNDERSAY

This year, the T&T Film Festival’s Carnival Film Series celebrates the late Brian Honoré, who was one of this country’s foremost Midnight Robbers. This article by Magella Moreau of the TTFF speaks life and times of Brian Honoré. 

In 1795 Grenada, the mulatto farm owner and son of a former slave, Julien Fédon, formed an army of freed slaves and took control of most of the island, in an attempt to abolish slavery and eliminate British colonial rule. The following year, the rebels were eventually overthrown by the British, who re-enslaved the freed Africans. Julien Fédon, who was never captured, remains a folk hero. 

One can’t help wondering if Fédon Honoré, born in Grenada in 1984, to one of T&T’s famed midnight robbers, Brian Honoré, had perhaps been named after this earlier warrior for social justice. According to Fédon: “My parents had an affinity for rebels with a cause, so they named me Fédon Maurice Honoré after two of the Caribbean’s greatest heroes—Julien Fédon and Maurice Bishop.”

More than just ole talk 

Fédon donned the Midnight Robber hat and cape before his father died in 2005, playing as part of the Mystery Raiders Midnight Robbers band, founded by his father and another midnight robber legend, Anthony “Puggy” Joseph. However since then he has had big shoes to fill. 

When he takes to the stage this weekend to pay tribute to his father, his hat and cape will no doubt carry the weight of the tradition’s warrior spirit and the legacy of his father—regarded as one of the artform’s greatest exponents. 

Fédon will perform as part of the T&T Film Festival’s Carnival Film Series—a four-part tribute to vintage kaiso, pan, and Carnival, as captured on film. The series kicks off on tonight from 6.30 pm, at UWI Film Department’s Studio, at 12 Carmody Road, St Augustine. 

A tribute to Brian 

The programme will feature Robbertalk, a special film and Midnight Robber performance tribute to Fédon’s father, in recognition of the tenth anniversary of his passing. Also on the programme is Calypso Dreams—a documentary chronicling the rich and complex roots of calypso music—directed by Geoffrey Dunn and Michael Horne and two short documentaries: Living Legacies: Trains in Trinidad; and Clay and Dirt Ovens in T&T—produced with the support of the Ministry of National Diversity and Social Integration. 

According to Bruce Paddington, founder and festival director of the TTFF: “Documenting the lives and honouring those who used their artform for nation building and social justice, is important for preserving institutional memory and shaping a national vision for the future. Midnight robbers were some of the greatest agents of resistance. 

“With their extravagant costumes referencing the dance macabre of ancient spiritual traditions, their oversized hats and flowing capes decorated with symbols of death or destruction, these traditional carnival characters threatened with a gun or dagger. But the real weapons wielded were their words. And Brian Honoré was a master of this medium, whipping us into shape with his oratory skills.” 

A modern-day ‘robber’ 

Mentored by the best, Honoré learned the artform from 91-year-old veteran Esau Millington and Puggy Joseph. But he added modern content, fusing the boasting bravado of traditional robber talk with social commentary, politicising the oratory of his midnight robber character. A reflection of the ideals of freedom, equality, and justice for all that he so passionately believed in. 

In an essay in The Drama Review (TDR), in 1998, Honoré drew parallels between robber talk and other traditions of subversive African speech. He outlined the history of the midnight robber from its inception in the early 1900s to its near demise and gradual revival, which he attributed to Peter Minshall’s Danse Macabre, for Carnival 1980. 

About the Carnival Film Series 

Over the past four years, the TTFF’s Carnival Film Series has presented diverse and unusual representations of Carnival on film and screen. Films have included tributes to pioneering calypsonians and carnival practitioners such as Calypso Rose, Shadow and Peter Minshall. This year’s Carnival Film Series, promises to be as diverse and entertaining. Admission to all the events is free. 

Details are as follows:

January 17 
Films: Calypso Dreams and Robber Talk (a tribute to Midnight Robber, Brian Honore)
Venue: UWI Film Department
Time: 6.30 pm 

January 18 
Film: The Glamour Boyz Again: Sparrow & Lord Superior on The Hilton Rooftop, 
Live Performance: Sparrow and Lord Superior
Honorary Awards: presented to Sparrow and Lord Superior by US Embassy
Venue: Globe Cinema, Port-of-Spain
Time: 6 pm 
Event is sold out. 

January 23 
Film: Pan! Our Musical Odyssey 
On sale: Limited copies of the film’s DVD and CD
Venue: San Fernando Hill, San Fernando
Time: 6.30 pm 

January 25 
Presentation: Calypso Craze by Alaska-based Carnival historian Ray Funk. Includes rare vintage Carnival film clips focusing on the Calypso Craze that swept America in 1957 and nearly killed rock and roll. Funk will also launch a box set that includes a book, CD and DVD of the same name. 
Venue: Nalis Amphitheatre, PoS 
Time: 6.30 pm


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