A CINEMA OF UNDERSTANDING


The first version of the MACHETERO poster by vagabond ©
The first version of the MACHETERO poster by vagabond ©

“Now more than ever we need to talk to each other, to listen to each other and understand how we see the world, and cinema is the best medium for doing this.” – Martin Scorsese

My father was a big jazz fanatic. Growing up in my house meant listening to jazz, a lot of it (much to my mother’s chagrin who was no fan of be-bop and couldn’t stand free jazz). The truth is that i didn’t understand be-bop either but watching the way my father listened to Miles, Bird, Mingus, Trane, Diz and Monk i realized that this was important. He listened with an intensity and a kind of reverence. He used to listen to jazz historian, archivist and DJ Phil Schaap on 89.9FM WKCR in New York. Phil Schaap spoke about jazz with the fervor of a tent revival preacher that made you want to accept Jazz as your personal savior. My father would add his own commentary to Phil Schaap as we listened not really talking to me per se but talking out loud for me to hear and in looking back now that commentary cemented this idea that all great things have a genesis.

i couldn’t understand half of what was going on at the time but what i did take away from all of it was that there was a hidden history that existed in the genius of things and that the geniuses who created were leaving bread crumbs that led back to the past as they moved in to the future. So at 17 when i first decided that i wanted to make films i started to do research. If my future was going to be in cinema then i needed to go back into cinemas history in order to see where i wanted to take it.

One of the people i studied (and still study today) is Martin Scorsese. Today is his birthday and i came across this quote…

“Now more than ever we need to talk to each other, to listen to each other and understand how we see the world, and cinema is the best medium for doing this.” – Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese

Beyond celebrity culture, beyond opening weekend box office numbers, beyond the hype, the red carpets, the glitz and the pretty lights… cinema is art… and art is a means of wrestling with the human condition. When i started to make MACHETERO that’s what i was trying to do. i was trying to get the human condition down as it relates to the colonized and the colonizer using the specific example of something i knew a lot about, the colonization of Puerto Rico by the United States.

Filmmaking for me has to be fun. i always have a saying with the friends who happen to be my collaborators on set “If we aren’t having fun, then its not worth doing…”. We had fun making MACHETERO. It was a lot of work but we laughed and we joked and kept our sense of humor. It was that laughter and joking and humor that made making MACHETERO a labour of love.

My initial conscious reaction to the Scorsese quote was that i had made MACHETERO to open up a dialogue, a debate, and a discussion about this colonial condition that had become a part of our human condition. To ask the hard questions, to pull no punches, to face the consequences of our decisions and to understand why we had taken them in the first place. However subconsciously it reminded of the of the responsibility that i carried for this film. For many people MACHETERO could be the first time they hear about the 100 plus year-old Puerto Rican colonial condition with the United States and the weight of that sat with me as i’m sure it did with everyone else (to varying degrees) who worked on the film. Not4Prophet (the actor who played Pedro Taino) and i had many conversations about this and i know that this responsibility weighted heavily on him as well. i wrestled with quite a few things in the making of this film, weighed down by the history, weighed down by the fact that this story had not been told in this way before.

When i decided to talk about the issue of Puerto Rico’s colonization by the United States i decided to do it in a film. When i set out to make MACHETERO i felt the same way that Scorsese felt. The world needed to know about the Puerto Rican colonial situation, they need to hear it and understand it and see it and cinema was the best way to do this. i think that making a film is only the beginning of the conversation and that those who watch it are continuing that conversation. i know that the conversation continues past the roll of the credits and spills into the streets and seeps into the collective consciousness and one of the things that i’m very proud of is that because of MACHETERO people are talking about the Puerto Rican colonial condition. Whether or not people like the film or agree with the views it presents people have better understanding of what’s going on because i chose to use cinema to communicate these very complex ideas.

My scrappy little film made on the frayed edges of a shoestring is changing consciousness because cinema is more than a business, it’s art and art is the struggle to express and share the human condition with others. Cinema is the best way to seep into the collective consciousness. If you don’t believe me, ask Martin Scorsese…

“People have to start talking to know more about other cultures and to understand each other.”  - Martin Scorsese

PS – Happy personal new year Marty…

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-go

Fuck Columbus


DISCOVERED by vagabond ©
DISCOVERED by vagabond ©

“I should be judged as a captain who went from Spain to the Indies to conquer a people numerous and warlike, whose manners and religion are very different from ours, who live in sierras and mountains, without fixed settlements, and where by divine will I have placed under the sovereignty of the King and Queen our Lords, an Other World, whereby Spain, which was reckoned poor, is become the richest of countries.”

“These people are very unskilled in arms… with 50 men they could all be subjected and made to do all that one wished.”

“Gold is a treasure, and he who possesses it does all he wishes to in this world, and succeeds in helping souls into paradise.”
– Christopher Columbus

Fuck Columbus and the four horsemen of the ongoing capitalist apocalypse that he rode in on, racism, slavery, colonialism and genocide. It’s my contention that Columbus is the father of modern capitalism which is defined by me as the gathering of financial profit by any and all means necessary. There is no code, no moral, no rules that get in the way of financial profit when it comes to capitalism the only code, or moral (if it can even be called that) or rule in capitalism is financial profit at any cost. Slavery, imprisonment, war, famine, disease, genocide it’s all fair ground in capitalism. Nothing stands in capitalism’s way when it comes to making a profit.

This idea of profit at any cost can be traced back to Columbus. Just look at the rapacious addiction to wealth he created in Europe with his so-called “discovery”. The transatlantic slave trade was started because of him. The desire for gold in the so-called “new world” begat the slavery of indigenous people, which then begat the slavery of Africans which then begat colonialism in both the Americas and in Africa and it all starts with Columbus…

Columbus the harbinger of colonialism in the Americas bringing me to the oldest colony in the world can be traced right back to him. Puerto Rico… Columbus first landed in Puerto Rico in 1493 and claimed it for Spain. It remained a colony of Spain until 1897 when Puerto Ricans, after many revolts and insurrections against Spanish colonial rule, managed to negotiate the autonomy of the island nation. 400 years of colonial rule were coming to an end… that is until the bastion of democracy and freedom came to Puerto Rico. The United States of America… The US invaded Puerto Rico in the Spanish-American War in 1898 and Puerto Rico went from winning it’s autonomy from Spain, one of the greatest colonial powers in the world to being a colony of the United States the new kid on the colonialism block.

A few years ago i decided to try and create a piece of art work that detailed the history of colonialism in Puerto Rico right back to Columbus. i came up with the DISCOVERED Card as carried by Christopher Columbus. In the background of the card the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. The first set of numbers on the card 1119 1493 are the date that Columbus first landed in Puerto Rico November 19th of 1493. The second set of numbers on the card 1210 1898 are the day that Spain gave Puerto Rico to the US December 10th of 1898. Columbus has been a card member of DISCOVERED since 1493 and the expiration date of the colonization he began will hopefully expire 20XX sometime this century for Puerto Rico. The flag in the left hand corner of the card is the Lares flag. The Lares flag was the first Puerto Rican flag ever designed and it was designed for the insurrection known as El Grito de Lares (The Cry Of Lares). The insurrection of Lares, a small mountain town in the center of the island, set in motion the autonomy that Puerto Rico would win against Spain. Under that flag the words GOLD CARD – because what other kind of card would Christopher Columbus carry?

So in honor of this wretched holiday in which we celebrate the genocide, the transatlantic slave trade, the rapacious hunger for financial profits above all else, the rampant colonization of Africa and the Americas and even Asia i give you the DISCOVERED Card. So yeah… Fuck Columbus…

It seems that as much as i hate Columbus he’s had a huge impact on my creative life… So much of my art and filmmaking is about dealing with the effects of Columbus and his rampant capitalism and his opening the doors of colonialism and his conceptualizing multi-generational slavery with his blatant racism. The art i created for the independence of Puerto Rico might never have to be if Columbus had stayed put. My documentaries on political prisoners might not have to be if Columbus never reached these shores because there might not have ever been a need for those people to go to prison. My film MACHETERO about the violent struggle for Puerto Rican independence against US colonialism (which is a continuation of Spanish colonialism)  took me 11 years from the writing of the script to releasing it on Vimeo On Demand

i often think about how my life might have taken a different turn if Columbus hadn’t started all this shit… i often think about how different the world would have been if Columbus and his crew had just died at sea… i often think about how much time and energy and talent is wasted in the world combatting the bullshit Columbus started over 500 years ago… i often think about what i might create if i didn’t have to deal with the Pandora’s box of capitalism that Columbus opened with his colonization and slavery and genocide… So yeah… Fuck Columbus…

“In 1492, the natives discovered they were indians, discovered they lived in America, discovered they were naked, discovered that the Sin existed, discovered they owed allegiance to a King and Kingdom from another world and a God from another sky, and that this God had invented the guilty and the dress, and had sent to be burnt alive who worships the Sun the Moon the Earth and the Rain that wets it.”
- Eduardo Galeano

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1aC

100 Fires


100 Fires by vagabond ©
100 Fires by vagabond ©

100 fires
(for Camilo Cienfuegos)
February 6, 1932 – October 28, 1959

we fight today
so we can dance tomorrow

we reject this history that marginalizes us
we prefer to rewrite it with ourselves as the heroes
the bullets flying past our heads
headlong into the danger without hesitation

we fight today
so we can drink tomorrow

the fear kept us compliant
but the joy of defiance is intoxicating
as we charge death now with a smile
awake in knowing

we fight today
so we can tell the stories tomorrow

and this new found courage
sparks a doubt that lights 100 fires
and burns down everything
that ever stood in our way

we fight today
so we can love tomorrow

100 fires to remind us of what was
and what could be
the phoenix of the future burns bright
in the ashes of the past

we fight today
so we can laugh tomorrow

100 fires burning a hole
where our uncertainty resides
the embers floating upward
carried on the smoke of our oppressors bones

- vagabond ©

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1ww

WHO’S READY?


Right-Side-Up

Who’s ready?

Who’s ready to rip the throats of politicians to silence the lie and clear the air of the noise pollution so the voiceless can be heard…?

Who’s ready to liberate the airwave frequencies of the toxic fascism of fear and financial profits…?

Who’s ready the bite the hand that sustains our hunger…?

Who’s ready to stop taking the medicine that’s making us sick…?

Who’s ready to feed bankers silver spoons either in liquid or solid form, we’ll let them decide…?

Who’s ready to make the cops come out with their hands up…?

Who’s ready to surround theses many Jericho prisons and blow horns for seven days until the walls come tumbling down…?

Who’s ready to level the playing field by swinging a wrecking ball into stock exchanges and driving bulldozers across banks…?

Who’s ready to light a match to the money that’s been blocking the warmth & the light of the sun…?

Who’s ready to pull back the curtain to light up and disinfect the bleak future that’s hobbling in with a bad cough…?

Anyone…?

Anyone…?

Anyone…?

Don’t worry this isn’t an indictment of you, i’m not an armchair revolutionary poet, i’m afraid too, of what they can do…

We know the future fear is greater in comparison to the present fear but i guess it’s not a sure thing until it’s too late…

But when will our future fear, surpass the present fear?

What will it take for our future fear to give us a present courage?

- vagabond ©

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1wc

SUICIDE SELFIE’S


Go Fuck Your Suicide Selfie series with two-fingered gun to the temple – i have the power to kill myself with myself by myself…

suicide selfie’s

i got new glasses
i can see clearly now
that the blur is gone
i can see what needs to be done
two fingers to the head
pressed up against the temple
i have the ability
to pull the trigger
but do i have the courage
click
from one moment to the next
i’m something different now

- vagabond ©

Props to Adál Maldonado for the concept and the inspiration…
For more Go Fuck Your Selfie’s go here virtually…

Or go here really

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1vA

MACHETERO Goes To School


BRING MACHETERO TO YOUR CAMPUS

MACHETERO is a film that questions and challenges Puerto Rico’s colonial status in a way that brings post-9/11 definitions, ideas and notions of terrorism into play. Theatrically self-released in 2013, MACHETERO has screened all over the world and won awards in South Africa, Wales, England, Thailand, Ireland and New York. Check out the film in its entirety on Vimeo On Demand to determine if it’s right for your classroom or as a campus activity. MACHETERO is a perfect fit for:

  • Latin American Studies
  • Afro-American Studies
  • Post-Colonial Studies
  • Creative Writing
  • Media Studies
  • Film Studies
  • Music Studies
  • English Literature
  • Political Science Studies
  • Pan African Studies
  • Pan Latino Studies

For more information
Email: machetero.movie@gmail.com
Call: 347-772-9186

Other screening events have been sponsored by Latin American, Black, and Asian student groups as well as various social justice groups.

MACHETERO usually screens with a post screening Q&A with writer, producer and director vagabond (me). The film is a dense and layered mix of poetry, music, text, history and post-colonial theory placed within a fictional narrative framework in a manner never before conceived. The film is not just a film about revolution, but is revolutionary in it’s very form.

MACHETERO has engendered discussion, dialogue and debate on a variety of issues. There have been discussions about anti-colonial Puerto Rican history, the history of US imperialism and Puerto Rico’s global connection to the other anti-imperialist struggles. Dialogues have also incorporated the topics of filmmaking aesthetics, underground guerrilla filmmaking tactics, and the role of art as a tool for social change. The film has also sparked debates around  questioning of the definition and use of the terms “terrorism” and “terrorists” and how those terms are defined and used, who defines them and how they benefit from such definitions and labels.

DYLCIA PAGAN

Dylcia Pagan on the set of MACHETERO
Dylcia Pagan on the set of MACHETERO

There have also been MACHETERO screening events in the past that have included former US held Puerto Rican political prisoner of war Dylcia Pagan. Dylcia served 20 years in prison for fighting for the independence of Puerto Rico. Before she went to prison she was a TV producer, journalist and documentarian and so she has a unique perspective on the film and on the power of media in general. She also plays a pivotal role in MACHETERO. Her history and insights into the struggle against colonialism in Puerto Rico and how it’s connected to other global struggles is invaluable.

WHAT FOLKS ARE SAYING ABOUT THE FILM

Chuck D quote

Bill Quigley QUOTE

TJ ENGLISH QUOTE

SAM GREENLEE QUOTE

For more information
Email: machetero.movie@gmail.com
Call: 347-772-9186

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1vf

MACHETERO PRODUCTION STILLS


If you haven’t seen my film MACHETERO yet, maybe this collection of production stills will pique your interest…

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1t4

 

The Liberation Day Tapes


The genome of my six-time international award-winning feature film MACHETERO can be mapped right back to the NYC hardcore Puerto Rican punk band RICANSTRUCTION and their first album Liberation Day. When i write i often build a soundtrack to use as an emotional roadmap to guide me through the construction of the script. i often see songs as short stories or reinterpret them as short stories and i take those short stories and try to include them in my writing process.

MACHETERO is a film about terrorism and terrorists and how those terms are defined and by whom. The script was written a year after the terrorist events of September 11, 2001. i was waiting for a more nuanced analysis of those events to take place on a larger scale but they never did and so i wrote the script for MACHETERO and decided to explore those issues in a film. The terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001 were polarizing and so referencing them in the script seemed counterproductive so i decided to use the struggle for Puerto Rico’s independence and the use of violence in that struggle as a means of liberation to talk about terrorism and terrorists.

RICANSTRUCTION’s Liberation Day was a concept album based around the Puerto Rican independence struggle. So when i was looking for music to inspire my scriptwriting for MACHETERO i was immediately drawn to Liberation Day. The songs from Liberation Day started to insinuate themselves into the script and they eventually became a part of the structure of the film.

At the end of the final sound mix for MACHETERO my friend and fellow filmmaker Omar came by and brought his camera to interview Arturo and Joseph Rodriguez about how Liberation Day came into being. Artie and Joey talk about how RICANSTRUCTION came about and how the concept for Liberation Day took shape. Arturo and Joseph talk about the ideas and the creation of each song and afterward there is the corresponding scene from MACHETERO.

Liberation Day by RICANSTRUCTION
Liberation Day by RICANSTRUCTION

RICANSTRUCTION’s Liberation Day is available on iTunes and i highly recommend picking it up. You can hear all the influences of Jazz, Funk, Salsa, Hip hop, Reggae and Merengue placed into a hardcore punk setting in the music of RICANSTRUCTION. The rest of their catalog - the EP Abu Jamal and their 2nd album Love + Revolution are also on iTunes.

You can watch The Liberation Day Tapes on the Vimeo On Demand page for MACHETERO. The Liberation Day Tapes are part of a collection of extra videos that give some background information on the film and that are free to watch. There is also a radio interview i did with Chuck D about the film and an interview i did with Sam Greenlee the author and co-screenwriter of The Spook Who Sat By The Door. There is also a scene from the film featuring former US held Puerto Rican political prisoner of war Dylcia Pagan who plays a pivotal role in the film.

Six Time International Award Winning Film MACHETERO On Vimeo On Demand
Six Time International Award Winning Film MACHETERO On Vimeo On Demand

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1sT

less than ideal art and ideas for a less than ideal world…

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,407 other followers

%d bloggers like this: