Category Archives: Film Video Cinema

ART WILL BE THE DEATH OF ME


BUk and vagabond

So the rumors of my death or near death have been only slightly exaggerated – but not without cause… Had a traffic jam in my heart and you all know how much i hate traffic… The blockage in my heart gave a me a heart attack… A combo of inheritance (genetics), good eats (but bad for your health) and filmmaker artist blues (stress)…

So Friday December 18th shoulda been on my tombstone but i have cheated death again… temporarily… at least for now… And now Friday December 18th of 2015 is kind of a 2nd birthday… It’s nice having a 2nd birthday but i wouldn’t recommend it… One is enough for all of us…

i’m in the good and very capable hands in the BX at Montefiore and the nurses and docs here are top notch… Whatever they pay these people it’s not enough… The Filipino, Ghanaian, Jamaican, Trinidadian, Italian, Gambian, Indian, Monserratian, Iranian, Korean, Chinese, Dominican, Puerto Rican hospital crew got my back… All smart and compassionate and tough and on message… i can’t tell you how many of them have told me about how much i have to change my eating habits and lifestyle – they don’t want me coming back – at least not under these conditions

i’ll try my best to make changes… no salt, no sugar, no red meat, no fat… my taste palate just went beige, no flavor, no color, no taste… Not a complete ban on that stuff but everything in moderation – very small moderation… Big changes must come and must come soon… It’ll be hard but i’m a do it… There are too many films asking to be made and asking me to make them and too many places i’ve never been on this big blue marble… And way too many people that would be upset if i don’t make some positive health changes…

But the docs say i’m lucky… Dodged a bullet like Neo in The Matrix… They say my echo is good and miniscule damage to the heart because i got in early… Props to the ambulance driver, she can wheel… (must find her and giver her, her propers)… So i’m good… Was Chillin’ in hospital while they made sure i’m good… They say i should be back on the streets soon…

Home now and chillin’ like the villain that i am… thinking about how to balance the idea of getting more done with my renewed lease on life without being consumed by the stress that broke my heart in the first place… i think the artist has the advantage of having the outlet of art but it also comes with the life long constant and ever imposing reality that you will never be free of art… It’s impossible for the artist to turn off their mind, to stop working, to stop being creative… The artist’s mind is constantly working, constantly scrutinizing the world and trying to make sense of what a life that for the most part has no logic…

Artist’s don’t take daze off… They don’t take vacations… Don’t go on holidaze… Don’t know what it is to leave work behind… The artist mind is always racing and between the pressures of making some kind of living (either with or without your art), family, friends, etc… it can be rough to be stress free… The only time we become stress free is when we finish a project… There’s that momentary satisfaction, that peace, that tranquility of purging the idea… And we enjoy it… It’s a rush that purges the stress… But it’s temporary…

The next idea is creepin’ around and rearing up it’s head and asking what about me…? When are you gonna realize me…? And so it begins again… The fever, the anxiety, the stress, the restriction, the pull, the tightening…

Before my heart attack i would often kill many of these ideas in my head in order to shut them up… How many ideas have been killed…? How much blood is on my hands…? i imagine that there is a room in my head  where i keep the dead bodies of ideas… i only open the door to that room to toss the corpses of artistic ideas in… i never look to see how the dead bodies are piled up or how many there are…

For the past year i have been trying to do two documentaries at once… Harlem’s Last Poet on the life of Last Poet Abiodun Oyewole and Six Shooters about six Puerto Rican teenagers from the 70’s and 80’s who chose camera as their weapon of choice… Been working on a sci-fi script that i’m halfway through writing…  Have to edit a short film tentatively entitled Sacred And Profane shot in the deserts of Nevada this past Spring with my Red Epic… Gotta get a short film we made a year ago called Coney Island Dreaming out to some festivals and see what happens… Trying to adapt an Afro-Futurist novel for the big screen as a potential Hollywood franchise… Some time next Spring a book of posts from this blog will be published by 2 Leaf Press under the name NOTHING TO BE GAINED HERE… And there are other ideas other projects in various stages all calling for attention…

This art thing is a lover… and like all lovers we fight and we make love and we fight and we talk and we refuse to talk and we argue and we forgive… It’s a lover, this art thing, and it will kill me… Art will be the death of me (hopefully)… You have to die of something and art is good way to live and i suppose it’s as good way to die… as good as any other way…

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STARVING THE ARTIST


Vimeo 1080P

Ok… ok… ok… this is an off the dome rant… One that can be seen as a selfish weak ass piece of shit but it’s how i feel sometimes… A lot of times… Most times… To be honest all the time… For those who give a shit about true politically and artistically radical independent filmmaking the price of my film MACHETERO is dropping on this Grito De Lares from $5.99 for a 48 hour rental to $2… and from $10 to download and own to $5… So now the price should be a smaller hurdle to get over… This is an experiment for me to see if people are actually interested in this kind of filmmaking, story, artistic experimentation, politic, etc… etc…

Maybe the price is a problem… Maybe it’s not… Maybe i’m bad at marketing and promotion… Maybe i need someone who is someone, to say that i am someone, for you to believe that this is something you should watch… Maybe it’s some of those things or a combination of those things or none of those things or all of those things…

If just one person a day rented MACHETERO at the original price of $5.99 i would make $5 a day which is about $150 a month… If one person a day bought MACHETERO at the original price of $10 i would make $9 a day which is about $270 a month… If both those things were to happen a day i would make about $420 a month… $420 a month comes out to about $5000 a year… MACHETERO cost $16,000 to make… A rental and purchase a day at $420 a month comes to about $5000 a year, which means the film can recoup its cost in approximately three years and three months… After another three years at those rates of rentals and purchases i could afford to give $1000 back to all of the key personnel who worked for free to make the film… And none of those people are expecting to get paid… so how nice would it be to get a thousand dollars for a film you worked on six years ago for free…?

Why should i try and make some money off a revolutionary film that calls for the ouster of the us colonial government in Puerto Rico…? Because we live in a capitalist society and as much as i would love to give my film away for free that doesn’t help me survive within this capitalist structure… It doesn’t help me to make another film which i have to make… Why?

Because i didn’t choose to make films or be a filmmaker… Filmmaking chose me… How do i know this…? Because i’ve tried to quit time and time again… Like Michael Corleone said in Godfather III, “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in”, thats me and filmmaking… i love making films… and i could give a shit if anyone likes them or the saw them… But the nature of capitalism is that you need to make money off of what you love and so this is where i fail miserably… And maybe, purposely because i’m an anti-capitalist… So maybe this boo-hoo, woe is me, cry me a fucken river bullshit rant is just all my own fault and has nothing to do with anyone else… i can’t take the blame for it, but i can take the responsibility for it… There’s a difference but i’ll let you tease that out…

Anyway… this is an experiment… Let’s see what happens… It’s obvious i’m not in this for the money… i just dropped the price of the rental and purchase price of the film… No one would do that if i they were in it for the money… Shit with the hours i work making a film i could make more money working minimum wage at Mickey D’s… So let’s see how it all shakes out… Fuck it… if nothing comes of this it won’t be because i tried… and failed… and tired again… and failed… and tried again… and failed… and tried again…

And now a word from our sponsor… This bullshit whine fest is brought to you by MACHETERO on Vimeo On Demand… what’s that mean…? It means Vimeo is available on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Google Chromecast, Playstation, X-Box and Roku if you want to watch on your TV at home (which as a filmmaker i highly suggest since it’s the closest you’ll come to a theatrical experience)… Vimeo is also available on your phone, tablet and computer…

And to those who have rented or purchased MACHETERO already i thank you for your support… It means more than you can know… And it goes further than you can imagine…

Vimeo Streaming Players & TV

Vimeo Mobile Devices

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1AF

FOR CHA-CHA


In my last post i spoke about the loss of a best friend… Mya… and the devastating affect it had on me… Mya taught me a lot of things and i didn’t want those lessons to go to waste while i wallowed in sorrow… Mya taught me that it’s about today… It’s about the right now… When we first got Mya it was a challenge for all of us, me and my girlfriend Resister and Mya… But we got through it… And a lot of beauty came out of that struggle… Mya went from being an abused puppy with an aggression based in fear of other dogs to finding a best friend in my brothers pitbull mix Cheyenne…

In the last year of Mya’s life my vet got a dog that was rescued by a good samaritan but didn’t belong to any organiztions that would take her out on adoption events… She was in a way twice abandoned… Her name was Cha-Cha and they kept asking me to take her, telling me she was a perfect fit for me… But Cha-Cha was a puppy and Mya was old and sick… Mya just wanted peace and quiet in her last days and a high energy puppy wanting to play and goof around all day seemed like a bad idea…

When Mya’s body started to give up on her (her spirit kept fighting but her body couldn’t hold her spirit) and i was forced to put her down i thought about Cha-Cha… i needed some time though… In a strange way i didn’t want to disrespect the memory of Mya… But after a month or so i realized that it wouldn’t be disrespectful to Mya’s memory to take on Cha-Cha but in a way would be honoring Mya’s memory…

My girlfriend and i are fortunate… we have a house, a yard, dog beds, relationships with vets and we’re good with dogs as our experience with Mya proved… So it makes sense to take Cha-Cha on… i called my vet to see how she was doing and they told me that she still hadn’t been adopted and that she had been at the vet’s living out most of that year in a cage… That broke my heart… The staff at my vet’s office love Cha-Cha and they do what they can for her but they have to divide their attention among a host of thousands of other responsibilities…

i secretly arranged to have my girlfriend and Cha-Cha meet and when they hit it off it was obvious that we would have to take her on… We took Cha-Cha for a weekend to see how she would fit in with our busy life… We took her on tour to meet family and friends to she how she would settle in… That weekend has turned into a life long commitment now…

Cha-Cha is a character… She got her name from the way in which she wags her tail… She’s so happy all the time that her tail is constantly wagging and she wags her tail so hard that it shakes her whole ass and it looks like she’s dancing… So the people who rescued her called her Cha-Cha…

So this is for Cha-Cha… And her predecessor Mya who taught us that it’s about today, not yesterday or tomorrow… See, taking on Cha-Cha and getting her out of that cage and making her life better is something that’s about today, not about yesterday and not about tomorrow… Today…

   

IMG_0495

One last note about Cha-Cha before i wrap this up and about the picture above… My allergies were acting up a few weeks ago and i had a bad headache so i went to lie down on the couch to try and rest… Cha-Cha grabbed her toy and jumped up on top of my chest as i lay on the couch (first time she had ever done this) and proceeded to wedge herself between the back of the couch and me to snuggle up against me… We took a nap like that for about an hour… i got up afterwards feeling like a Cha-Champion…

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1zs

FOR MYA


Me & Mya
Me & Mya

On Friday, January 23rd i lost one of my best friends… Well, to be more specific i was forced by her health to put her down… She was 13 years old and i had known her for almost 9 years… She was my pitbull Mya… It was the hardest thing i have ever had to do in my life…

“…love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.” – Kabil Gibran

i’d spent the last year of Mya’s life trying to make her life as comfortable as possible… it was grueling… i lost a lot of sleep and expended a huge amount of time and energy to make her old age as graceful as possible… Carrying her up and down the stairs, picking her 20 to 30 times a day up when the arthritis in her legs weakened her and caused her to fall… i gave her a regiment of supplements, anti-biotics, pro-biotics, pain meds, fed her by hand, put diapers on her and cleaned up after accidents… It was almost a full time job and one that i didn’t want to stop doing… But Mya was in a lot of pain and i couldn’t get her to eat for the last four days of her life, which meant i couldn’t give her pain meds or supplements… She wouldn’t even eat my French Toast with real organic maple syrup which was a favorite of hers…

Mya & Resister (my life partner)
Mya & Resister (my life partner)

i called a vet who specialized in putting animals down in the comfort of their home… The last few times Mya went to the vet she was scared, more scared and uncomfortable than usual… Mya was used to going to the vet… She survived breast cancer, two soft tissue sarcomas on the her leg and a brain tumor just to name a few of the issues she had struggled with… So putting her down at home on the couch in her favorite spot in the house where she would curl up was something that made it knew would be easier on her and on us…

“The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man’s.” – Mark Twain

The hardest part about putting Mya down was that she was a fighter… She only knew how to fight… Even unto the bitter end she wanted to live… Her spirit was so strong that it pushed her body beyond what it could handle… i made the decision to put her down because her body was giving out on her… She had an extremely serious urinary tract infection, arthritis pain that made it hard for her to walk, laryngeal collapse, a third soft tissue sarcoma developing on her leg and her stomach was no longer processing food properly by pushing it into her intestines… It was her inability to eat that was the final blow… If she couldn’t eat, i couldn’t manage her pain…

“Dogs…do not ruin their sleep worrying about how to keep the objects they have, and to obtain the objects they have not. There is nothing of value they have to bequeath except their love and their faith.” – Eugene O’Neill, from his Dalmatian, Blemie’s, last will and testament

It was hard letting her go… It’s still hard… At the oddest times i would suddenly feel the lump in my throat swell and the pain in my chest explode and the tears would come rolling as i grit my teeth and shook at the lack i felt… She left a huge hole in me… i felt hollowed out and empty… Her death was like a vacuum that sucked out pieces of me… And for the next few weeks i was haunted by the chasm i felt with all the things that reminded me of her…

It’s only recently with a new development in my life that i’ve been able to put the pain of her loss in a context that allows me some peace… But that’s another story for another time… This is for Mya…

i took Mya everywhere whenever i could and she was a presence that everyone felt… Here she is at a recording session i helped produce a few years ago… She was the best… A good friend, a good companion… the best…

In July of last year Mya had a quick little cameo in this very short film i did… i will miss her for the rest of my days…

Mya 12•24•01 - 1•23•15
Mya 12•24•01 – 1•23•15

For other stories about Mya

THE FUTURE IS WRITTEN

#NOTABULLY

BY THE NUMBERS

FACING DEATH WITH LIFE

LUNCHROOM BEATS VOL 1

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DOIN’ THE NUYORICAN THING


DOIN' THE NUYORICAN THING by vagabond ©
DOIN’ THE NUYORICAN THING by vagabond ©

Last year i shot a book video for Sam Diaz Carrion’s book Our Nuyorican Thing: The Birth Of A Self-Made Identity. i never got around to actually cutting it though and i felt bad because Sam’s an amazing person, a completely underrated poet that could easily be forgotten and this video was my way of making sure that he wasn’t forgotten or cast aside or ignored… Part of the reason i had such a hard time with the edit was because Sam was tackling a huge subject. He was trying to define something that as he says has no borders or flag or definition… He was going toe to toe with the idea or term Nuyorican…

Sam Diaz used to work at the Nuyorican Poets Café in the Lower East Side of NYC. He would often be asked about what a Nuyorican is… In a series of poems and stories from Sam’s new book Our Nuyorican Thing: The Birth of A Self-Made identity, published by 2Leaf Press, Sam explores the self-made identity that is Nuyorican… Both the shooting and the edit were difficult because i was trying to condense Sam’s ideas on the Nuyorican phenomenon and it was difficult to get to the essence of things down to the compact form that it eventually took shape in the final cut… His book is available on Amazon and of course is well worth getting…

Check the video…

OUR NUYORICAN THING COVER

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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…

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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

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