Christmas present to Caribana fans

The best carnival film gets its redux this weekend

By Stephen Weir

Fun & Free

It was the best movie almost no one saw at the opening night of September’s Caribbean Tales Film Festival (CTFF).  The good news is that the Bell Fibe TV service is delivering a Christmas present to subscribers and showing the movie on December 23rd and 25th.

Toronto Caribbean Carnival: Fun and Free, is an hour-long documentary about the annual Caribana festival. When it kicked off the annual Toronto CTFF it got a long and loud standing ovation from the audience in a mostly empty Carlton Cinema theatre.

Now Bell subscribers in Ontario and Quebec can catch the TV movie film premiering on their One Caribbean Channel twice over the Christmas weekend. It is showing at 8pm on Friday and again at 9pm on Sunday night.

Toronto Caribbean Carnival: Fun and Free is an hour-long documentary about the annual show Torontonians celebrate, be it as performers or as part of the million-person audience crowding the Lakeshore to watch the holiday parade. 

Fun & Free

What made the film so good is that the makers of the movie knew that Carnival in this city is isn’t just a parade, it’s a series of different events lasting for months and involves more than just the Festival Management Committee – the organizers of the parade.  This movie shows it all, including the Underground Railroad Emancipation Midnight Ride, The Ontario Science Centre judging the best made King and Queen Costumes, to the volunteer-driven Children’s Parade. And let’s not forget the Malvern church service that blesses the annual festival and all the revelers.

Truth be told, although made painstakingly over three-years by director/writer Irina Volkova (who is married into a Caribbean family), isn’t an honest picture of what Carnival is. No, it is better. 

At this parade there aren’t rainstorms nor high winds, and the sun shines brightly overhead. The hundreds of thousands of fans stay on their side of the fences and the stands are filled.  There are no gaps along the parade route and all the Mas leaders get along.  In this movie everything starts on time, and no one gets hurt. The costumes are all works of art and when the revellers race to the judging stand, they are Olympic runners who are reaching for gold.

Horrors, there is a lot of skin being shown in the movie, so much so that one movie review has already warned parents about the contents.

“What is the big fuss all about – so they put on some feathers and beads, and they jump in the street? The thing is it (wearing super skimpy costumes) is just the foil, like balloons you put up at somebody’s birthday party!” explained 1967 Caribana original Dr Rita Cox. “But this party is about somebody’s life. If this (festival) were to end there would be a revolution!”

When the Caribbean Camera reviewed this movie back in September, we said that the film is a “keeper not just for now but forever.” It’s director Volkova said her goal is to have the film broadcast on national TV in Canada and the US.

Well, after this weekend, part of her goal will have been met. Our advice to her?

“You, Go Girl, don’t stop marketing your film at the border, make the next stop the US and then the rest of the world!”