Mas Appeal: Dalton Narine Puts Carnival on the Silver Screen

Words by Eddie STATS Houghton

The Merry Monarch

If you weren’t checking for the New York International Film Festival this summer, you probably haven’t seen Mas Man, Dalton Narine’s documentary on award-winning designer of mas paraphernalia Peter Minshall, much less heard the news that it took the title of Best Short Documentary when the NYIFF awards were announced just a few weeks ago. We only got put up when we paid a visit to Harlem’s best haberdasher, who happens to be a proud Trini named Bun (more on him soon). If you haven’t seen the doc, you probably don’t know that Trinidadian-born and bred Minshall has been the artistic director for three Olympic games running–even winning an Emmy for his work in Salt Lake City–bringing to the international stage the unmatched flare for color and spectacle he still nurtures every year with the creation of mas costumes and set-pieces for Trinidad carnival.

But now is the time to change all that. Even without seeing the entire film, one look at Minshall designs like “Hummingbird,” “Black Madonna” or “Iron Butterfly” is enough to confirm that he is a very strange dude and also a true genius, fusing the best aspects of H.R. Giger, Chris Ofili and Cirque de Soleil into a single unique expression. Likewise, one look at the trailer (below) is enough to confirm that Dalton Narine has matched him with the filmmaker’s art in the documentary–which, by the way, is now available on DVD. The result is edutainment at its best and a powerful validation of this uniquely Caribbean artform.

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