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Saturday, October 31, 2020
We Mas Launch of the bands 2019. Photograph: Albert St Clair

Seeking the true meaning of Carnival

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This year saw Notting Hill Carnival take to the internet with the project Access All Areas. It offered a new type of audio-visual experience interspersed with historical information and interviews with carnival protagonists and pioneers, all of which added important background information and context for the Carnival Arts. The full impact will hopefully gain significance over the coming years as new generations continue to access the online content.

It has been generally accepted by both the Carnival community and carnival goers alike that the event has suffered from bad press over the years. Indeed, the mainstream media has done much to distort and corrupt the message of what Carnival truly represents, its values, and its cultural meaning. Filmmaker Tony Oldham’s two Carnival documentaries, A People’s Art and Arts of Conflict, together, form a project which seeks to document and find the true nature of Notting Hill Carnival in order to tackle the misconceptions conveyed through the media.

A People’s Art follows Ayesha, a young British woman, in her first experience of mas, as she discovers the history and significance of the event. It identifies the media’s negative portrayal of Carnival whilst highlighting the spiritual freedom that it represents. Arts of Conflict is a more sombre film, slower in tone, that focuses on Notting Hill Carnival’s history and its arts. Both films originally formed part of a feature, but were eventually separated into two films with sequences that in part overlap.

Notably, A People’s Art was screened at Trinidad & Tobago’s Film Festival on 9 September, and it then went on to close the Caribbean Tales International Film Festival on 2 October. It won top accolade of Caribbean Spirit Award at Caribbean Tales. These festivals are the two most important such events in Caribbean cinema’s calendar, and are run by the two most prominent players on the Caribbean film scene: Filmco, based in T&T, and Caribbean Tales in Toronto. Both these 15 year old events, which almost exclusively comprise Caribbean films, are for the first time in their history screening online.

150 free passes to A People’s Art on the film’s online platform, Vimeo have been made available to Soca News on a first come, first served basis. Just enter the code ‘SocaNews’ to access the film at vimeo.com/ondemand/apeoplesart.

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