There were several films that were an inspiration and had a direct impact on MACHETERO. They’re pictured above and listed below. Next to each film i listed the main influence that it had on MACHETERO. Below the list i go into detail on the impact that each film made on MACHETERO.
The Battle Of Algiers – Anti-imperialism
Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai – Warrior Code/Structure
Paradise Now – Anti-imperialism
In Praise Of Love – Structure
Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song – Anti-imperialism
The Spook Who Sat By The Door – Anti-imperialism
The Last Temptation Of Christ – Sacrifice
The Limey – Structure
The Battle Of Algiers, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song and The Spook Who Sat By The Door were the films that i went to first as examples of films that were uncompromising in terms of their politics. They all dealt in varying degrees to anti-imperialist struggles. These three films had the heaviest influences on MACHETERO in terms of their being open and unapologetic about their politics.
In The Battle Of Algiers it was clearly an anti-colonial struggle with the underground armed forces of the Algerian FLN (Forces of National Liberation) going up against the French colonizers. The FLN are credited with being among the first organizations to use modern urban guerrilla warfare tactics and “terrorist” actions that brought the French to their knees. It’s a film that’s used to this day by revolutionaries as a lesson in guerrilla warfare. The film is also used by the Pentagon as an insight into those same guerrilla warfare tactics. The Battle Of Algiers is based on real events and real people and when i was creating MACHETERO i wanted all of the events in the film to be rooted in real events. The Pedro Taino character is based on a conglomeration of real revolutionaries who fought for freedom within the US, some of whom are still doing time in US prisons.
Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song was also an anti-imperialist film although in a less obvious way. The film is about a sex performer (as in staged sex shows) who fights back against the corrupt police within the Black community and becomes a hero to Black folks in the ghetto. This may not fit the definition of imperialism in the strictest sense but Black folks in American have always had more in common with imperialism than America would like to admit. Although Sweetback is credited with jump starting the Blaxploitation era, it was really more of an art film for the masses. i liked that idea and it helped encourage me to believe that you could make an art film that didn’t ostracize an audience and that you could make a political art film for oppressed people.
The Spook Who Sat By The Door took this idea of imperialism of Black people in America to its extreme but logical conclusion. The film is about the organization of an underground resistance to fight for Black peoples freedom in America. All three of those films were decades old were easy to get a hold of with the exception of The Spook Who Sat By The Door which was banned by the FBI and only recently released in the last few years on DVD. The film is very detailed in how a former Black CIA agent turns Black gangs in the ghetto into guerrilla fighters. With MACHETERO i felt it was important to touch on the passing on of information from one generation of Machetero to another and so the development of The Young Rebel by Pedro Taino into a Machetero and The Young Rebel passing on the information and the history of struggle to his girl-friend is where the influence of The Spook WHo Sat By The Door can be felt in MACHETERO.
The most recent film on that list that was also had an anti-imperialist theme was Paradise Now which followed two Palestinian suicide bombers in their last days before their mission. The character arc that Paradise Now portrayed from the daily struggle under imperialism to the violent action against imperialism was also an important feature that i paid close attention to. It informed the character arch for the Pedro Taino character as well as shape the character of The Young Rebel. It was important to humanize the so-called “terrorist” Pedro Taino and it was important to humanize the way in which The Young Rebel becomes the next Machetero.
Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai was a film that i looked at with an eye towards the way in which the Hagakure is used in the film. The Hagakure is a book that details the way of being for a Samurai. It’s essentially a how-to book. Ghost Dog used excerpts from the Hagakure to provide characterization for the lead character. In the process of doing MACHETERO i was looking for a device that would say more about the characters in the film outside of dialogue or adding scenes to the film. This is where the idea for the Anti-manifesto was developed between Not4Prophet and i. If the Samurai were members of a warrior culture then why couldn’t or weren’t Macheteros also considered a warrior culture? We took the idea of Macheteros as a warrior culture and used the Anti-manifesto as a means to portray that. The Anti-manifestoexcerpts defined what it meant to be Machetero and since the film is in part about becoming Machetero the excerpts were another way to help shape and define the characters in much the same way that Ghost Dog did with its lead character and the Hagakure.
In Praise Of Love was another film that i was watching while i was in the beginning process of editing. In Praise Of Love is a complex film that plays with time and uses on-screen titles to do so. This is where the idea for playing with onscreen titles to define time periods to the different characters in the film. In MACHETERO the PAST is represented or personified by Not4Prophet’s character Pedro Taino who is the “terrorist” in prison. The PRESENT is represented or personified by Isaach De Bankolé’s character Jean Dumont who is the journalist interviewing Pedro Taino, or investigating the past in order to understand the present. The FUTURE is represented or personified by Kelvin Fernandez who plays The Young Rebel as he becomes Machetero. The FUTURE title also refers to The Young Rebel’s girl-friend played by Chloe Fernandez once The Young Rebel passes on the Anti-manifesto to her. Assigning temporal titles to various characters in the film helped give shape to the some of the cyclical themes that i was exploring. It was In Praise of Love that jump started all these ideas that dealt with temporal exploration of character and in doing so it really helped drive home the cyclical themes of imperial violence spawning a response of violence.
The Limey was a film that i had seen when it first hit theaters and as soon as it was on DVD i picked it up. The thing that makes the Limey really interesting and amazing is that it’s a film that has a kind of structural ambiguity. While watching the Limey you never are quite sure of where you are in the timeline of the film. The film is structured to be temporally ambiguous, past present and future meld and mesh in an interesting and beautiful way and it’s done in a way that doesn’t attract attention to itself. It achieves this in a very subtle way. The Limey was a film that i went back to when i was editing MACHETERO because i saw an opportunity to juggle the story structure around in a way that The Limey did. This structural ambiguity relied very heavily on sound to make the it work. In MACHETERO i used the sound of the interview between Not4Prophet’s Pedro Taino and Isaach De Bankolés Jean Dumont. This conversation was the spinal cord that keeps everyone from getting lost in the film and allowed me to play with the structural way in which the film unfolded and it was an idea that came from The Limey.
The other film i went to for guidance and inspiration was The Last Temptation Of Christ. An underlying theme in MACHETERO was one of sacrifice and The Last Temptation Of Christ was a film that really exemplified that. The film is an adaption of a novel written by the famous Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis based on the life of Jesus Christ. Both the book and the film were controversial because they looked at Christ as a man who was struggling with being the messiah. When i first saw the film at the Ziegfeld theater in NYC it was being picketed by every Christian group you could possibly imagine because it portrayed Jesus Christ as a man struggling with his divinity and his role as a savior and messiah. The film was a real eye opener and Christ struggle as a man only made his ultimate sacrifice all the more meaningful. The idea of sacrifice weighs heavily in MACHETERO. Dylcia Pagan’s Doña Maria talks about the history of Puerto Rico and the need to fight for Puerto Rico’s independence, Pedro Taino sacrifices his life for the cause of freedom. The Young Rebel chooses a life of sacrifice for freedom. There was also this idea that i wanted to convey in MACHETERO that being Machetero was like a calling that one accepted reluctantly, The Last Temptation Of Christ was a film that opened up ideas on how to deal with some of these ideas of reluctance and sacrifice and i thought about it a lot as i wrote and edited MACHETERO.
It’s not uncommon for filmmakers to sit down and look at a few films before they begin or as they are in a production of their own. For me it’s a necessary part of my creative process to go into my film library and do some research or go online and get some films that i think would help me in whatever project i’m working on. Sometimes you trip over things as you start or as you go through a project that you can use. In reality i’m looking for good ideas to steal. It’s been often said that good poets steal and bad poets imitate. All good art is theft. Jim Jarmusch one of my favorite directors once said that we should celebrate our artistic theft. Jean Luc Godard (another of my favorite directors) once said “It’s not where you take things from, but where you take them to.” Chuck D. (one of my favorite rappers) said “It’s like a forward bounce pass” for those unfamiliar with your sources. If you haven’t checked out any of the films on this list please do… And consider this my celebratory confession of theft on what i took and where i took it and use it as your forward bounce pass…
MACHETERO plays New York City for only three more days in a limited theatrical run.
WED. JUNE 12TH – WED. JUNE 19TH
CLEMENTE SOTO VELEZ
KABAYITO’S THEATER (2ND FLOOR)
107 SUFFOLK STREET
NY NY 10002
(BTWN RIVINGTON & DELANCEY)
SCREENING TIMES • 1PM • 3PM • 5PM • 7PM • 9PM
F Train to Delancey Street or J , M , or Z Trains to Essex Street.
Walk to Suffolk Street, make a left.