Minshall arrived on the scene at the right time, with the
right mas, in the right year and as he said to me when talks
of the documentary arose, De universe patient eh?
this is why Minshall, in my opinion, is truly a genius of
Theres a buzz around town, a buzz of speculation that
something remarkable is being documented for the masses
of the world to see, comprehend and emulate.
Peter Minshall, the man behind some of the most inspirationally
imaginative art crafted into costume, is being filmed for
showcase to the world, and none other than the truly gifted
Dalton Narine is at the helm.
Speaking with Narine, the Guardian was able to capture,
not only the essence of the project but also the essence
of the character that leads this massive undertaking that
has peaked the interest of the highly-acclaimed Daniel Dieffenthaller,
and cinematographer Benedict Joseph, pulling them both into
the production of it all.
For a man like Minshall, whose life is often difficult to
gain entry into, one is left in awe of Narine and his team
whove managed to pull the curtains aside on the legendary
At first glance, it is almost hard to fathom the fact that
such a petite figure holds within such a tremendous magnitude
of talent and knowledge as would soon be revealed.
At 11 oclock on a Wednesday morning, Narine and his
team have already sat at an executive meeting with members
of the Callaloo Company, a meeting as he tells, was aimed
at obtaining additional international contacts in London,
Tokyo, Barcelona, France and Washington DC, where the team
hopes to travel for additional footage. It is after this
very important meeting that the Guardian sits one-on-one
with Narine, who opens up to who he is, the objective behind
the film and many other questions derived from this massive
A bit on Narine
Born into a Laventille-based, Christian family, Narine explains
that hes always been inclined to write, but as a child,
those around him believed that hed grow up to be a
priest because he was an altar boy throughout his youth.
For a while, he knew that his life would go in either direction
but it was the love of words and the expression it could
afford, that saw him venture to the United States after
completing his A-Level education here in Trinidad. As he
figuratively states, it was all the same word.
The journey began at Howard University in Washington DC
but was quickly diverted to NYU in New York City. At Howard,
Narine says he was certain that his Caribbean ancestry and
black ethnicity would tag him as merely a black writer and
not a prolific writer as hed certainly like to be
recognised. At NYU, at the age of 19, even as he delved
into the subject matter that he hoped would eventually lead
to his degree, a shadow that he believes had the ability
to turn him into a schizophrenic, emerged.
Narine was asked to undertake the much-welcomed task of
writing for a college magazine but first, hed have
to join the US army. Through the colleges RTC programme,
narine says he signed away his life, taking an oath to the
US that would bring him tremendous anguish and eventually
lead to a life-long journey of self-recovery.
To hell and back
For two years, the sound of guns, bombs, the sight of bloody
bodies, dead comrades and the feeling of reclusive fear,
took over Narines life, for, in Vietnam at the age
of 19, the man who was once being steered toward the priesthood,
had been exposed to a life that is not remotely understandable
to the common man.
As Narine explained to the Guardian, six days prior to his
scheduled departure from Vietnam, the incident that has
come to mar his life occurred. Fifty-three soldiers from
his company perished as a result of a deadly time conflict.
Friendly fire as it is referred to in the service, was sprayed
upon the troops by the US air force.
Now, even as hes mastered so much in the media and
film, Narine says: Still, I see it all like jumbled
pieces of a Picasso painting, bloody
Photo: Aba Luke
and his team, whom he holds in very high esteem, have for
the past four years, been arduously creating
an historic and purposeful documentary on the Callaloo Companys
and dying men who just couldnt be saved.
Still, with so much within him to express and the talent
of the written word on his side, there remained opportunities
Peter Minshall, a man whom hed neither known nor understood,
became a figure that Dalton just couldnt seem to shake
from thought. It was in 1976 that hed heard of Minshalls
plan to reproduce through the art of mas, Miltons
Paradise Lost. It had been a novel studied by Dalton during
the GCE Advanced-level studies here in Trinidad and hearing
of Minshalls plan while in New York, he immediately
questioned how this could possibly be done. That very year,
Narine visited Trinidad in search of the man whose desire
to design costumes for a Stephen Lee Heung presentation,
seemed utterly far-fetched.
At the mas camp that year, narine says he met Minshall with
a measuring tape strung across his shoulders and the distinctive
eyeglasses clasped to his face. Walking up to him for the
very first time, he remembers questioning the legend, asking,
Are you the Peter Minshall thats going to reproduce
Miltons Paradise Lost in mas?
It was from that moment, when Narine told Minshall that
it just couldnt be done, that the two began a life-long
relationship that would see great moments unveiled and masterpieces
cross stages throughout Port-of-Spain.
That year, Narine remembers going back to the Stephen Lee
Heung mas camp, night after night, anxious to see whether
Minshall could pull off the unthinkable. On Carnival Monday,
the unthinkable became a reality as, sitting along a wall
on Wrightson Road, Dalton Narine, a teenager in awe of a
masmans portrayal, shot roll after roll of film that
epitomised the Paradise Lost that hed only read of,
in a school days tale.
Forged in a love of friendship
For 32 years, Dalton Narine has been a friend of Peter Minshall.
Hes produced The Minshall Trilogy for which hes
obtained an award from the Columbus International Film Festival
in Chicago and hes been privy to see firsthand, the
talent that others are only fortunate to glimpse. When asked
for that specific reason that tells of his admiration for
Minshall, Narine utters, Peter Minshall arrived on
the scene at the right time, with the right mas, in the
right year and as he said to me when talks of the documentary
arose, De universe patient eh?
why Minshall, in my opinion, is truly a genius of sorts.
In Peter Minshall, narine had found a man who was able to
put a new spin to mas that would portray the country in
a dignified way and expose the art of mas to the world at
large; this all, even before the tribulations that Narine
himself would come to bear at the hands of Vietnam.
Following his experience in the war, Narine was advised
to return to Trinidad, something that proved to be a blessing
in disguise, for it was here that hed managed to put
things into greater perspective, essentially determining
his future as a writer, editor and eventually, a film-maker.
Hed been diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder
but coming back to his roots took him away from the country
that had placed him at the heart of the war.
Here in Trinidad, he was able to grow with the local culture,
be among the industrys greats like Peter Minshall,
the man whose charisma hed grown fascinated by, the
man who wore the glasses and calmly, rationally orchestrated
magnificence. Among the local media Narine strived for success,
filming, writing and unveiling through words, the things
that everyone wanted to know.
Making of the Man
For years, Dalton Narine has been moved by the work of Peter
Minshall. Even when he moved back to the US, where he took
on the role of editor at various magazines, including Esquire,
his undying love and appreciation for the work of the man
who has taken mas to the world, has lingered.
With 12 documentaries compiled, based on cultural elements
of this twin-island nation, Narine, whose trait circumvents
crowds and leans more toward a loner lifestyle, is working
on a 13th. From coverage of international displays to captured
moments of his lifestylepast and present, Narine and
his team, whom he holds in very high esteem, have for the
past four years, been arduously creating an historic and
purposeful documentary on the Callaloo Companys Peter
Now based in Florida, Narine is considered a medical retiree.
Nonetheless, because of his fervent writing and editing
skills he remains a part of the Miami Herald family, based
on a mutual understanding that his input has been substantial
throughout the years. After a number of years, through therapy
and the aid of his work, Narine is much better mentally
than he was when he came back from the war.
In 2008, the man who compiles words, based on passion, is
in the process of writing his novel. It is based on the
metaphorical similarities between the steelpan and the war
in Vietnam. This in addition to documentary number 13The
Man, The Life and Art of Minshall, certainly has Narine
quite occupied these days.
With no assistance from sponsors local or otherwise, Narine
frankly states: No matter the cost, it will be done,
it will be accomplished and my crowning moment will be that
day when this documentary is featured in Trinidad and Tobago,
that day when the film receives a standing ovation for three
minutes; thats when Ill know my moment has been