The Carnival

Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
March 6, 2000

We are on a BWIA (“better walk if able” or “but will it arrive”) flight full of party animals on their way to the Carnival, one of the biggest party extravaganzas in the Caribbean. Never have I been on a flight with so much free flowing booze before. The frequent flyers are flying high with their personal extra security bag of goodies in case the flight runs dry. Trinis are very particular when it comes to their rum.

Kwan and Anna at Carnival
Kwan and Anna at Carnival

The custom officials are even in the carnival mood, a pleasant change from Tel Aviv. Our gracious hosts and story subjects Maurice and Brenda Soong greet us. They look like Asian John F. and Jackie Kennedy wannabes especially Brenda with her big 60’s hairdo. The minute we breeze through immigration, the humid island heat is in my face. It’s already early evening; I can’t imagine how hot it will get in daylight tomorrow playing mas.

We get chauffeured to dinner in an air con Mercedes like royalty. Inside the car, Brenda said something about lo-cal food. I thought she was making reference to my Buddha belly and was suggesting that we have low cal food… I’m having trouble with the island accent. But instead, we found ourselves in a swanky Indian buffet on top of the Hilton. It reminds me of The Peak back home… Nice place but too rich for my working class blood… So much for lo-cal food.

It’s only four in the morning and I’m awakened by the thumping beat of Soca and steel drums. We had three hours of shut-eye. Anna, the daughter and her husband Johnston pick us up at the Hotel Royal. We are driving back to Port of Spain to hook up with the mas bands. They should have just left me at the airport last night. I’m still sleep deprived.

I’m shooting Anna and her friends as they get ready fixing their outlandish costumes and stocking up on the national drink…rum. It’s eight am and we’re finally leaving for the Savannah. Anna has trouble getting her headgear into the Mercedes. They should have brought the convertible, but then the headpiece would have probably flown away, which would have been equally comical.

The morning mist has blown away. The sun is coming out and it’s much clearer for my camera. But I can also feel the heat and humidity level rising. My Steadicam is meandering thru the crowd picking up as many Asian faces as I can.

We get busted by Carnival police. On normal TV crews, there’s usually a “fixer” guy that you hire from the local film office. He’s like a bodyguard and human bank machine. He’s street smart, knows the local scene, knows all the right people to bribe and walks around with a big bag of cash to take care of this sort of stuff. In our case, the “fixer” guy is Cheuk.

After our high angle establishing beauty shot of the mas parade from the footbridge, it’s high noon and the light is way too overhead to shoot. We are hot, famish and dehydrated, a good excuse for some local food and cold Carib beer. We grab rotis under a shade and watch the rest of the parade float by. After lunch, Cheuk cools off in the Hilton swimming pool in his underwear.