Isaach de Bankolé Critiques MACHETERO

vagabond, Jeff"AK", Melvin & Isaach De Bankolé on the prison set of MACHETERO
vagabond, Jeff”AK”, Melvin & Isaach De Bankolé on the prison set of MACHETERO

Isaach de Bankolé is the biggest film star in MACHETERO, he’s worked with some of the most creative and adventurous directors of our time, Jim Jarmusch, Claire Denis, Michael Mann, Nicolas Roeg, Lars Von Trier, he’s also the lynch pin in this film. Isaach anchors the narrative of the MACHETERO and that allows the film to experiment with structure and storytelling. When i finished cutting MACHETERO Isaach hadn’t seen it because he was working in Spain with Jim Jarmusch on THE LIMITS OF CONTROL. When Isaach got back i met with him in Harlem to give him a copy of the film. He was excited to see it and said he would get back to me as soon as he saw it to let me know his thoughts.

A few days later Issach called me and told me he loved the film but that he had a suggestion to make and could we meet to talk. The first thing he wanted to tell me was that i had to see THE LIMITS OF CONTROL. He felt LIMITS and MACHETERO shared more than a few similarities. i went to see shortly after we met and could see what he was talking about both in terms of the lone hero doing the impossible and in terms of themes about control and freedom.

Isaach then went on to give me his critique of MACHETERO. He thought the first two-thirds of the film were intense and claustrophobic in a way that won’t allow the audience to catch it’s breathe. He felt that the film doesn’t exhale and draw a second breathe until the first scene in Puerto Rico.

i could understand what he was saying. i had designed the first two-thirds of the film to be pure rage and frustration. i wanted the audience to feel Pedro’s intensity and yearning and imprisonment. i wanted the audience to feel the anger of a dream long fought for and unfulfilled. Of course with Issach’s critique Issach had given me a fresh perspective, a new way of seeing the film, and i have to admit that it was a beautiful way to look at the film.

Isaach had described the film in terms of being an organic living breathing thing. People often talk about bringing a film to life or that a film has a life of it own, and these seem to be poetic ways of speaking about any artistic endeavor. But i had never thought of applying that concept to the structure. What Issach had seen and brought up to me was that the film was literally fighting for it’s life… it didn’t breath or take a breathe for the first two acts.

This analogy of a living breathing structure lead me to think more about what i had initially created. The construction of the first two-thirds of the film in this intense, claustrophobic almost suffocating way was my way of trying to transport the audience into a state of what it’s like to be oppressed and colonized. This inability to take a breath, is like the desire to be free. The frustration and rage of being oppressed won’t allow a breath when one needs it. While you’re struggling to be free, you have to choose your time to take a breath wisely, because those who oppress you have restricted your right to breathe when you want. This is oppression, this is colonialism…

With Issach’s brilliant analysis of the film the first two-thirds of the film may be too constricted by this idea and in a way it may be too much for an audience to handle right away. His suggestion was to introduce some of the scenes of Puerto Rico and let those scenes be the breathe that needs to be had within those first two-thirds. It really was a brilliant analysis and i immediately took those ideas to heart and went back to the edit and try a few things.

When i went back to edit the film the idea of taking a moment to allow the film to breathe in the first two acts brought up another idea that would never have happened if it hadn’t been for Isaach’s critique. i recut the film to include flashbacks to Puerto Rico and to a young boy on the beach swinging a machete and to flashbacks of The Mentor (played by former US held Puerto Rican Political Prisoner of War Dylcia Pagan) looking out into the distance. These images helped relate to the audience what it was that Pedro Taino (played by RICANSTRUCTION lead singer Not4Prophet) was fighting for. i also used an image of the Pedro Taino character standing on a beach in Puerto Rico and looking out into the sea. The shot is from behind his head and make gives a kind of surreal quality to the shot since we don’t see his face and we can’t tell if the shot is a flash forward or a flashback….

In the process of recutting the film i managed to add another thematic layer to the film. Isaach’s critique had opened me up to something. When i started to edit the young boy on the beach swinging a machete in Puerto Rico and edit that image into the narrative to bring a breathe into the film, the rhythm of the young boy swinging the machete and the repetitious frequency way i which i used that image made me think of the young boy as a ghost, an apparition, haunting Pedro Taino. The young boy swinging the machete became on the beach in Puerto Rico became the spirit of the Machetero haunting Pedro Taino, urging him to do more, haunting him with the idea that the responsibility to free Puerto Rico was his…

It really emphasized the idea that Pedro Taino was driven by something deeper… It drove the idea home that a spirit of resistance had come into him and that Pedro had accepted the responsibility of being Machetero… i feel like that image humanized Pedro Taino’s character… It also took off some of the edge of the frustration and anger in the film that wouldn’t allow it to breathe as Isaach so eloquently put it… It was really a beautiful sentiment that would never have been had it not been for Isaach’s critique of MACHETERO…

MACHETERO opens in New York City for a one week limited theatrical run.

NY NY 10002

F Train to Delancey Street or J , M , or Z Trains to Essex Street.
Walk to Suffolk Street, make a left.

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