Category Archives: Puerto Rican Independence

STARVING THE ARTIST


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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…

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Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1AF

THE PUERTO RICAN MANDELA


The Puerto Rican Mandela by vagabond ©
The Puerto Rican Mandela by vagabond ©

A few weeks ago i was asked by Benjamin Ramos of Pro-Libertad, an organization dedicated to the freedom of Puerto Rican political prisoners, to design a poster for US held Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera. For those who don’t know Puerto Rico has been a colony of the US since 1898. For more on that whole situation check this out… Ever since it’s colonization there’s been a resistance movement to liberate Puerto Rico from the US to quote Malcolm X “…by any and all means necessary”. Some of those means have included armed struggle which is the right of colonized peoples in the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples under UN Resolution 1514.

Oscar Lopez Rivera is a freedom fighter not unlike the most famous political prisoner in the world, Nelson Mandela. Oscar is 72 and has been in prison since 1981, that’s almost half his life. He was charged, convicted and sentenced to 70 years for the crime of seditious conspiracy to overthrow the US government. Contrary to the lies and misinformation fed by the US government and the corporate media Oscar is not charged with killing or maiming anyone. He is charged with seditious conspiracy to overthrow the US government.

After i designed the image above Benjamin asked if i knew anyone who could print some posters and postcards. i reached out to the worker owned union shop of offset printers, Radix Media. i worked closely with Lantz Arroyo and he was able to print a run of 11″x17″ posters and 4″x6″ postcards of the image…

Puerto Rican Mandela posters
Puerto Rican Mandela posters

Some of the posters will be used as media to help spread the word about Oscar and some will be for sale with the proceeds going towards Oscar’s commissary. If you’re looking to try and get one let me know and we’ll work something out. i imagine Oscar will use some of those funds we raise to get art supplies since he is a painter. Check out some of Oscar’s work here…

The international campaign to free Oscar Lopez Rivera is asking people to call both the White House and demand that Oscar Lopez Rivera be released unconditionally. Call President Obama at 202-456-1111 and leave a message!  Let him know that Oscar Lopez Rivera has been in prison for too long and deserves to go home!  

Sample Message for your phone call:
President Obama, I ask that you free Puerto Rican Political Prisoner, Oscar Lopez Rivera.  Since 1981, he has been in jail for fighting for Puerto Rican independence; he never committed a violent crime and has been a model prisoner.  I ask that you follow in the foot steps of Presidents Truman, Carter, and Clinton, who freed other Puerto Rican activists, and set Oscar free!

For more info on Oscar Lopez Rivera the video below is from Democracy Now and gives some more detailed information on both Oscar and the campaign to free him…

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1A9

FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF BETWEEN TWO WORLDS


Rev. Pedro Pietri Is On The Other Side by vagabond ©
Rev. Pedro Pietri Is On The Other Side by vagabond ©

“To take you back, I was born in 1898, during the climax of the Spanish/American War. I say 1898 because that was the year that the U.S. invaded Puerto Rico, the year when they colonized us. Now, I was born again in ‘44 to my mother in Ponce, Puerto Rico and again in ’47, at the age of three, when my folks migrated to New York City through the epic of Operation Boot Strap. We’re all part of the casualties of the Inquisition, the American Inquisition.

I also say I was born in 1949, because that’s the day I went to the first theatre with my grandfather, who felt deceived by Operation Boot Strap and committed hara-kiri, but I don’t think it was suicide. He was killed by the system that deceived him, the system that made him sell his land in Borinquen. What happened was the disillusion. The voices in his head were of the Central Intelligence, compelling him to sever his jugular vein. Think about his friends. There’s nobody to talk to, nobody to communicate with, and there’s nothing to go back to, but the industrialization of the island that had deceived so many people. So, that was the first theatre I went to, at Monje’s Funeral Parlor, in a brown suit. Actually, that was my first teaching, or my first awareness of Puerto Rican history. Puerto Ricans die and go to a Puerto Rican funeral parlor. And Monje was a ghoul; he looked like a ghoul. How you going to have the name Monje, and be a proprietor of a funeral parlor? You’ll scare the customers away, but he didn’t scare us away. ”
– Rev. Pedro Pietri
Source La Prensa San Diego 6th, Feb, 2004 

Who the hell is Rev. Pedro Pietri? Rev. Pedro Pierti was one of the original Nuyorican poets. Who were the Nuyorican Poets? The Nuyorican poets were a rag-tag bunch of Puerto Rican who became poets at the literal barrel of US colonialism’s gun. They emerged from the late 60’s, 70’s and 80’s living a schizophrenic existence in exile in the mean streets of New York because Puerto Rico is and continues to be a colony of the United States. Schizophrenic because Americans didn’t want them because they were Puerto Ricans and Puerto Ricans didn’t want them because now they were Americans. The result of that dual schizophrenic existence became the Nuyorican experience. But because Puerto Ricans are good with a blade these poets carved out a space with words and defined the unreality of what it meant to be Puerto Rican outside of Puerto Rico. In the process of doing that the Nuyorican poets grabbed poetry by the ankles turned it upside down and shook the change out its pockets.

No other poet captured the zeitgeist of the Nuyorican experience like Rev. Pedro Pietri. The proof is in the recipe of his 1974 epic poem, Puerto Rican Obituary. That poem was written in the El Barrio (East Harlem, NYC) apartment of Dylcia Pagan a former US held Puerto Rican political prisoner and prisoner of war. Puerto Rican Obituary took the schizophrenic unreality of Puerto Ricans in the ghettos of New York living in between two worlds while simultaneously living in both and wholeheartedly claimed the validity of it, in all of it’s absurdity rather than rejecting it, in all it’s impossibility. In claiming to be in – and – from two different places at once Puerto Rican Obituary led the charge to fuse the fracture of a split existence. The idea of being in – and – from two places at once is a part of the psychological fallout of colonization. Puerto Rico has been a colony of the US since 1898 and was a colony of Spain for almost 400 years before that. What Rev. Pedro Pietri and the other Nuyorican Poets did was painfully, playfully and poetically work through the fracture of being colonized and fuse together a mismatched unreality to recreate what it meant to be Puerto Rican within a fractured colonized existence. Check out this excerpt of Rev. Pedro Pietri reciting Puerto Rican Obituary…

Rev. Pedro Pietri’s poetry could be described as surreal dadaism from the streets. His poetry is filled with resolving the conflicting unreality of living here and there at the same time and in the same space. He flipped the polarizing effects of opposing ideas and made them attract. He used what seemed like nonsense to make sense of a world that’s never made sense. To understand what i’m talking about here is a poem from Rev. Pedro Pietri called Traffic Misdirector from his book Traffic Violations…

TRAFFIC MISDIRECTOR
the greatest living poet
in new york city
was born in Puerto Rico
his name is Jorge Brandon
he is 70 years old
he carries his metaphor
in brown shopping bags
inside steel shopping cart
he travels around with
on the streets of manhattan
he recites his poetry
to whoever listens
& when nobody is around
he recites to himself
he speaks the wisdom
of unforgotten palm trees
the vocabulary of coconuts
that wear overcoats
the traffic lights
of his poems function
without the boring advice
from ac or dc current
book stores & libraries
are deprived of his vibes
to become familiar
with this immortal poet
you have to hang-out
on  street corners
building stoops rooftops
fire escapes bars parks
subway train stations
bodegas botanicas
iglesias pawn shops
card games cock fights
funerals valencia bakery
hunts point palace
pool halls orchard beach
& cuchifrito stands
on the lower east side
the admission is free
his presence is poetry

In 2004 the good right Rev. Pedro Pietri died of stomach cancer which he felt was attributed to his exposure to Agent Orange when he was drafted into the Vietnam War. He may have flipped over to the flip side of life but his vibe and his influences can still be felt on this side…

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1yy

#GIFT4OSCAR


FREE OSCAR by vagabond ©
FREE OSCAR by vagabond ©

Today is 3 Kings Day… It’s also US held Puerto Rican political prisoner of war Oscar Lopez Rivera’s birthday. He’s 72 years old. For 33 of those years he’s been in US prisons as the longest held Puerto Rican political prisoner of war. ‪#‎FREEOSCARLOPEZNOW‬

There is a Twitter campaign going on right now to pressure US President Barak Obama to free Oscar Lopez Rivera. This campaign is being dubbed #Gift4Oscar in which people create a salvo of art, music, writings, videos, and tweets to #FreeOscarLopezRiveraNow in an effort to educate people about Oscar Lopez Rivera and to help bring about his freedom. Over the years i have done various pieces of art for Oscar’s freedom… This is my ‪#‎Gift4Oscar‬

You’ll notice one of the pieces is the cover of a ‘zine that the RICANSTRUCTION Network did called SALVO which featured Oscar on the cover along with an essay from him on art and prison. You can download a PDF copy of the ‘zine at the Audio Visual Terrorism blog.

These pieces are free to use for the struggle towards his release… i only ask the proper credit be given…

by vagabond ©

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1xo

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

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