25 August 2010


On Sunday, August 29 at 4 pm at the AV room at the National Library at Hart & Abercomby Streets in Port of Spain, the Academy at UTT and the Heritage Library at NALIS are co-sponsoring a free presentation on Carnival in the Fifties.

This short film made in 1953 by Fritz Henle on Trinidad Carnival that has not been seen in over 50 years.

The program will also feature other footage of Carnival in the Fifties including home movies. This will be a unique chance to see what mas, pan and calypso looked and sounded like over half a century ago.

The program will be hosted by Ray Funk, the Alaskan judge who is an honorary fellow of the Academy, and Dr. Kim Johnson whose Audacity of the Creole Imagination exhibit was a hit at the National Museum earlier this year.

Fritz Henle (1909-1993) the director had come to Trinidad for Carnival in 1951 on a photo shoot assignment from Holiday magazine. He returned to shoot this film during the two days of 1952 Carnival. Henle and his editor Bob Sosenko put it together over the next several months. Shown in theatres in the US and Europe it was released through Universal-International under the titles Calypso Carnival and Carnival in Trinidad was released through Universal-International. Since then it disappeared and only a few copies are known to exist in places like the Swedish Film Archives and the Library of Congress.

Fritz Henle was a German-born, American-based photographer who became a top fashion photographer in New York and worked extensively for Life and other magazines. He is known for his photographs of Pablo Casals and Frieda Kahlo. He also published 19 books He found himself drawn to the Caribbean starting in the Forties, published a book first on the Virgin Islands, later a book called The Caribbean; a Journey With Pictures in 1957 and eventually moved to ST Croix in the US Virgin Islands. A major exhibit of his photography "Fritz Henle: In Search of Beauty" was held at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin in 2009.

The University of Texas sought a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation to restore and digitize this film as part of an effort by the University of Texas to preserve all of Fritz Henle’s films. The restoration was just completed earlier this summer and through the assistance of film curator Steve Wilson at the University of Texas this will be the first public showing of the film! Plans are under way to make it available on the web later this year.

The results are stunning. It is brilliantly restored in bright colors and excellent sound. “The film is an exciting addition to the few films that survive of Carnival in the 1950s. The color is spectacular and the artistic eye of the director makes this a joy to watch.” Ray Funk beams. “There are great shots of bats, a wonderful set of midnight robbers, a number of vivid historical bands including Harold Saldenah’s Ancient Rome. Quo Vadis as well as Queen’s Heralds and Aristocrats of the Sixteenth Century but the piece de resistance is a detailed look at Invaders steelband seen in full military mas. The music for the film was provided by Ralph MacDonald’s father, the New York based calypsonian Macbeth the Great.

Part of the purpose of the program, Dr. Kim Johnson notes is to have the public help in identification of who are who in the bands and the various masqueraders in these films. “I have spent the last several years trying to locate historic photographs of pan and Ray Funk has been a major resource in trying to find film and television footage of not just pan but also calypso and mas. We need to find out who is being depicted in the films and this is a chance for the public to help us identify what bands and maybe even what individuals..”

“We are developing courses that survey Carnival in prior decades,” Dr. Hollis Liverpool notes. “These films are an important resource for students that will only be of greater value if we get help in identifying the mas makers shown in the film.”

For further information, contact Ray Funk at 721-4001.