Tuesday 19 September 2017

Paparazzi advice on how to get a picture of Machel Montano (and avoid a selfie stick up the butt).

Machel Montano about to be mobbed by media

It is a paparazzi thing I picked up by observation in Beverly Hills. When I need an uncluttered shot of a superstar without other photographers elbowing me out of the way, get the celeb just as he or she steps out of the car BEFORE the waiting throng smell celebrity blood.

Fresh. The smile is genuine and if I am lucky I might get a quote before I get jabbed out of the way by selfie sticks and deafened by blown-out lungs yelling "Machel. Machel. Please. Please. Look this way?"
Such was the case earlier this week when I attended the gala launch party for the 12th annual CaribbeanTales International Film Festival (CTFF) in downtown Toronto. Standing around the organizers with my big ears on alert I heard the Walkie Talkie crackle that The King of Soca, Trinidad's Machel Montano was in an Uber on College Street and would soon be here! Tonight 'here' was a closed sidestreet near the Royal Theatre, home of CTFF. The fete was in full party mode with Mas models in skimpy costumes, steel drums drumming and a hundred Caribbean Canadian celebs and media with cameras and phones raised high.
Machel and I have met several times. When I helped him out of the Uber I reminded him of our history. He pretended that he remembered and agreed to pose for a single picture, which instantly tells the night's story.

Here is a happy confident guy who has performed for millions, including Obama, and knows there is nothing he can't handle at the CTFF premier of his feature length film; Machel Montano: Journey of A Soca King.

Pstt - Theatre is across the street Machel!
If you have never heard of the Trinidad singer Machel Montano, it means you most likely aren't from the Caribbean. You probably have never jumped up to his Soca classics like Party Done, One Wine and Shake Yuh Bum, or wined and palanced (don't ask if you don't know) to his song It's Carnival at Toronto's Caribana.
For me tonight, he is a Soca hurricane, steps from making landfall. As we talk I see him mentally preparing for his entrance. No one in Little Italy knows him but, once in front of the waiting Caribbean community it's Bacchanalia time.
Never mind that TIFF activities were taking place a few blocks away. For anyone living the diaspora, holding a ticket to the Montano flick is akin to finding Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket.
The demand was so large that an extra screening was quickly arranged for the next night at a Malvern cinema (A Caribbean Canadian neighbourhood in Northeast Toronto). No one seemed to care about what the movie was actually about, what matters is that Machel is in the house.

"Journey of a Soca King chronicles his rise from a child star competing on Star Search, to his reign as a Soca Monarch in Trinidad. The film utilizes never before seen vintage footage to tell the phenomenal story of the "Michael Jackson of the Caribbean", while giving viewers a backstage pass to his 15 high energy, nonstop, live performances during the last 5 days before Carnival Monday 2015 in Trinidad."                IMBD

The film has a strong launch but I want to know what the star thinks about the state of the Caribbean homegrown film business.
"It is exploding, not just in T&T (Trinidad and Tobago) but Jamaica, Grenada and Cuba too. Look at the number of films in this year's festival."
He was right. CaribbeanTales has been trying to introduce to North America's movie industry to feature length films, shorts and TV pilots created with a Caribbean connection. In 2017 there are 17 features and 30 shorts being shown in Toronto between now and September 21st.

St. Lucia's Joseph Marcell and friends at the Gala.
You know him as the Butler on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
photo by Anthony Berot
"There will be more if we can overcome one problem," said Machel. "Money. We need Caribbean investors to believe in us."
Last year Montano's Trini/Bollywood musical feature Bazodee opened CTFF to a huge critical acclaim. The movie then toured the world, selling-out theatres where ever Soca fans are. But, and this a biggie but, the distributor found huge tracts in Canada and US where Soca isn't understood.

Bajan Soca Queen Alison Hinds attended the opening!

"It took us 10 years to make that movie because of a lack of investors. I put my own money into it and I still haven't broken even. We are hoping that a NetFlicks deal will save the day!" Machel told the audience at a talk-back following the film.
" I want to do more movies to get the world turned onto Soca and this could be the movie and the city to do it in."
Organizers of the film festival couldn't agree more. Their mantra? "TIFF shows THE movies but at CTFF we show OUR oeuvre."