Tag Archives: Anti-imperilaism


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

[vimeo 107782689 w=600&h=446]

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.

[vimeo 75167575 w=600&h=338]

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

A Self-decribed Machetero

Isaach de Bankholé as Jean Dumont from MACHETERO
Isaach de Bankolé as Jean Dumont from MACHETERO

An excerpt from the script of the six-time award-winning film MACHETERO. Watch it VOD as a rental for 48 hours or download it to own it. For some context to the excerpt below… Jean is a French journalist who is interviewing Pedro about his decision to use violence as a means of liberating Puerto Rico from US colonialism. The interview takes place in a prison where Pedro is being held for trying to overthrow the US government in Puerto Rico. Pedro describes himself as a Machetero, a historical and cultural symbol of resistance to colonialism in Puerto Rico.

Jean in the film is played by international film star Isaach de Bankolé who you may recognize from such films as Ghost Dog, Manderlay, The Limits Of Control, night On Earth, Chocolat and Casino Royale. Pedro is played by lead singer of Puerto Rican punk band RICANSTRUCTION and MC of the hip hop duo X-Vandals, Not4Prophet. MACHETERO’s story revolves around this interview between Jean and Pedro.

Do you find it strange that in your struggle for freedom you find yourself in prison?

No. I’ve been in one prison or another all my life. Just because there aren’t any bars on the windows, locks on the doors or guards at the gate doesn’t mean you aren’t in prison.

What was a self-described Machetero doing in the US Army?

I was educated on the streets with the hustlers and the pimps and the dealers and the thieves and the dope fiends and the winos and the cops and the killers. From La Pearla in San Juan to El Barrio in NYC, I did what was necessary to survive. When I was 16 I was looking at a state bid, looking at doing some hard time. They were going to send me to Sing Sing, where I could get my Masters in criminology but the US Army offered me less time.

Does the US Army make it a policy to recruit convicted criminals?

Militaries kill and steal. That’s what they train you to do. Prison is a good place to find killers and thieves.

And you got a dishonorable discharge after you did your time in the army.

I just wanted to be free. There are no stories there to tell, military time was about following orders, I just didn’t always do as I was told.

[vimeo 75167575 w=600&h=337]

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1o4

May Day Agit-Prop

Renew Your Resistance

Over the years i’ve created a lot agit-prop for various struggles for freedom… i thought it would be a good idea to collect some of that work that i felt was in keeping with the spirit of May Day… Here is a collection that is free to use on a non-profit basis… i only ask that you include the credit “vagabond ©”… Consider it an ongoing gift to the struggle…

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1mM

2013 MACHETERO Released

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

“I love the cinema passionately enough not to remain a spectator.”
– Francois Truffaut

As part of my looking back on my artistic accomplishments for 2013 the year marked 11 years after the script for MACHETERO was written, 7 years after i started shooting, 5 years after i finished shooting and 5 years after we won the first of six international awards. It also marked the DIY theatrical release of the film. From June 12th through the 19th i rented a small 55 seat theater with a video projector on the Lower East Side of NYC at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center and screened MACHETERO three times a day on weekdays and 5 times a day on weekends. The plan was to garner critical attention to a film that spoke about US colonialism in Puerto Rico that critics might champion, to encourage audiences to  see, so that a much-needed dialogue about US colonialism in Puerto Rico could be had.

i take my DIY seriously, i promoted the film both online and on the streets, sold tickets, popcorn, soda, Cracker Jacks, T-shirts and CD’s, ran the projector, introduced the film and answered questions afterwards. It was one of the hardest things i’ve ever done and it pushed me to my limits. It was a painful uphill battle. Financially i just barely broke even – that is if you don’t count the hundreds of hours of work i put in. i know that admitting to this kind of failure is not a smart thing for someone to do in this business but filmmaking has never been a business for me. Years ago i thought i had chosen to make films but i was wrong, i didn’t choose to make films, filmmaking chose me… i’m not making films for Hollywood, i make films because i have a question that only making a film can answer, so the rules of the Hollywood game don’t apply to me…

The process of a DIY theatrical release was an experiment in separating the wheat from the chaff. It was a means of discovering what filmmaking was for me. It was an attempt to rewrite the rules so that they worked for me rather than against me. On a certain level that attempt failed and on another level it was a resounding success. It failed in terms of trying to garner the critical attention needed for a film like MACHETERO to garner an audience. The film critics i tried courting on Twitter and on Facebook didn’t show any interest in reviewing the film. There was not much of an audience and so there wasn’t much of a discussion on the colonial relationship that the US has had with Puerto Rico for 115 years now. On that front, it failed miserably.

On another level the film succeeded as a means of open political and artistic defiance. A film as outspoken as MACHETERO was never going to be distributed theatrically or otherwise in the US. There are many American films that are critical or call for reform but very few that are anti-American. i have no fear or apprehension in saying that MACHETERO is an anti-American film. US colonialism in Puerto Rico is a distinctly American phenomena and i am openly and unapologetically opposed to it. While it’s true that the first amendment allows you to express those kinds of views in America it doesn’t mean that anyone has to pay attention, it doesn’t mean anyone has to watch or listen to anything you have to say. The radical voice of MACHETERO wasn’t going to be given a chance to be heard within the Hollywood distribution game or the so-called independent alternative distributors. Even if there were a distributor bold enough to take the film on i highly doubt that they would handle the marketing and promotion of the film in a way that would have insured the film’s success. i would have been left alone to do everything i did in terms of a DIY release only now with the added burden of a partner that didn’t know how to pull its own weight.

As someone who wholeheartedly believes in the independence of Puerto Rico and as a filmmaker i wanted my film MACHETERO to start a conversation about US colonialism in Puerto Rico even if it meant releasing the film on my own. What other alternative was there? And so i released it knowing that there the odds were slimmer than slim in finding even a kernel of success. Knowing that the endeavor might destroy the 23 years relationship i’ve managed to have with my girlfriend. Knowing that being ignored by the critics and the machinery was all but guaranteed. Knowing that no one really cares about US colonialism in Puerto Rico. Despite all that, i did it anyway.

i knew that not taking the risk of releasing theatrically was a greater failure. i knew that the regret of not taking the risk was and always is greater than the regret of taking the risk. In that respect the act of releasing MACHETERO in a DIY Stylee {sic} is an act of political and artistic defiance. The world may not want to hear about MACHETERO and US colonialism in Puerto Rico but that doesn’t mean silence is an option… Hollywood has a way of mystifying the filmmaking process so that only a select few should make films and an even fewer number of those films that are made should be seen… By all accounts MACHETERO should never have been made or released theatrically, by all accounts, except mine… Che Guevara once said “The guerrilla wins by not losing” and in that respect the DIY release of MACHETERO was an overwhelming success that i could be proud of…

On September 23rd, a national Puerto Rican holiday celebrating a rebellion against Spanish colonial rule, MACHETERO was released on Vimeo On Demand and you can watch it on your TV, Computer, Tablet or Phone…

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1hx

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

MACHETERO On Demand On El Grito De Lares

MACHETERO On Demand Poster by vagabond ©
MACHETERO On Demand Poster by vagabond ©

“American colonialist imperialism by it’s application of politics that are genocidal and destructive to the personality of the Puerto Rican people to this day, has managed to create a Puerto Rican with a profound dose of repressed violence whose explosion if released would be completely uncontrollable.” – Comandante Filiberto

Today is the 115th anniversary of the insurrection by Puerto Rican revolutionaries against Spanish colonial rule known as El Grito de Lares. On September 23rd of 1868, in the mountain town of Lares Puerto Rico in the center of the island nation a few hundred men and women staged a rebellion to declare Puerto Rico a sovereign nation in the eyes of the world. It was an audacious, risky and daring move on the part of these few brave revolutionaries but isn’t it always that way?

The rebellion was initially planned for September 27th but the revolutionaries were betrayed and the declaration of the Republic of Puerto Rico was declared four days early. The rebels were waiting for a cache of weapons to arrive by sea but when they found out about the betrayal they were forced to move the attack up to the 23rd. Those few days cost them the rebellion. Spain was prepared for the ill-equipped rebels and the rebellion was quickly put down.

Despite the betrayal and it’s subsequent putting down, El Grito de Lares was not a complete failure. In the years following it spawned other revolts against Spanish colonial rule in Las Marías, Adjuntas, Utuado, Vieques, Bayamón, Ciales and Toa Baja. The abolition of slavery in Puerto Rico in 1873 can also be traced back to these revolts. El Grito de Lares also led to a framework of autonomy that Puerto Rico achieved from Spain in 1897. An autonomy that would never come to its full fruition when the US invaded Puerto Rico in 1898 and took the island nation as its own colony after the Spanish-American War.

The significance of El Grito de Lares continues to both haunt and inspire Puerto Ricans. It’s a day that’s celebrated and commemorated each year in the mountain town of Lares. It’s also the day that the FBI assassinated independence leader Comandante Filiberto in 2005 a few miles from that annual celebration. As a speech that Filiberto had sent to the celebration played the FBI and Filiberto were locked in a gun battle that resulted in Filiberto being shot and wounded. As he lay bleeding his speech played. The FBI refused to approach him as he laying bleeding and left him to bleed out for over 24 hours. The esoteric distant memory of El Grito de Lares in 1868 became the tangible weight of El Grito de Lares in 2005.

Filiberto was given a warrior’s funeral. The outrage of the FBI going after Filiberto and assassinating him on this day of all days that all Puerto Ricans consider sacred was expressed in a mixture of rage and sadness the days that followed his assassination and reached a fevered apex on his burial day. Filiberto had the largest funeral in the history of Puerto Rico.

MACHETERO is my narrative feature film debut as a writer, producer and director and it’s a film that was made in a very large part to help address this rebel history that’s been kept hidden from both Puerto Ricans and non Puerto Ricans alike.. The film won awards in South Africa, Wales, England, Thailand, Ireland and New York. It’s a labor of love. A love for cinema, love for art, and love for freedom. It wasn’t easy to make and it’s been a long hard road filled with obstacles that needed to be overcome. So it’s with great pride and immense joy mixed that i’m choosing this day to announce the release of MACHETERO online On Demand through Vimeo. However that pride and that joy is mixed with an equal dose of rage and sadness because Puerto Rico is still a colony of the US and the ghost that is the spirit of El Grito de Lares still haunts us…

Shorlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1a4