Tag Archives: AVT

The Liberation Day Tapes


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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.

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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

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Death Art And Taxes


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“We have art in order not to die.”
– Nietzsche

i’ve come to understand that filmmaking for me is not something i do or something that i want to do… It’s not some hobby or a means to making a living (i definitely am not making money with filmmaking).. Filmmaking for me is survival… If i go long periods where i don’t make a film my soul literally gets sick… i feel uneasy with myself and with the world…

For a long time i was afraid of admitting to myself that this was the case because being a filmmaker reeks of privilege… It’s an expensive art and to say that you need it to live seemed pretentious, seemed abusive in some way… Abusive because filmmaking requires so much of me and by making demands on my time and energy and finances and it also has the potential to take away from those who love and support me in the form of time and energy and finances… And if they are to continue loving and supporting me they have to accept that i need to make films…

It seems completely unfair… Having me in your life means understanding that i need to make films in order to be sane… That understanding carries with it some level of time and energy and sacrifice on that persons part… In some cases it may even require you to understand that i may hit you up financially to get my next film fix on…

That seems to me to be completely unfair to loved ones… i feel as though my whole life is going to be lived in debt… Not just a financial debt… (i’m an anti-capitalist… i don’t give a fuck about money…) But a physical debt, a spiritual debt, a debt of time and energy that i feel can never be repaid in full… i’m always surprised when friends and family continue to stand by me while i go off into the next project… i live in a kind of low-level constant fear that if i don’t “make it” (whatever that means) that they will abandon me…

To make matters worse the films i make are probably not commercially viable… i’m not in control of my filmmaking… i didn’t choose to be a filmmaker… When i was younger i thought i had chosen to do film… But i didn’t… Filmmaking chose me… i know this because i’ve tried to quit and painfully realized over the years that quitting it means quitting on a huge part of myself… Letting go of that large a part of myself would just mean being someone else… And how can you be someone else…?

Not being in control of my filmmaking means that the films take hold of me and use me to bring them into creation… More often than not that means i’m not making a film that has some financial reward attached to it… Which means that i’m forced to try to find some other value for those who contribute their time and energy and life force to my films… They need something in return, after all it’s only fair…

“Nobody rides for free… motherfucker.”
– King Of New York

The 800 pound gorilla that lives in a room inside my head is the financial hardships my filmmaking brings not just on me but on the ones who love and support me and it’s something i don’t take lightly because it wears on me more than i can ever express… The financial burden of it all envelopes my existence on a daily basis… There’s not a single day that goes by that i am not searching in my mind for a way to lift the friends and family who have donated their time and energy (and yes even money) to my films with some kind of financial remuneration…

It’s gotten to the point where i feel like that 800 pound gorilla has taken my head as collateral and is demanding payment for every film i want to make… Demanding some kind of potential financial reward for every project i embark on… The more i try to put it off the more collateral it takes in the form of space in my head… The more it tries to crowd out any other thoughts, the more it demands a larger sum for the space it claims in my thought process… The financial aspects of filmmaking are like a virus that’s overtaking my system and only “making it”, only making money will cure the disease… My mind is literally being colonized by the idea that i must monetize the thing that helps keep me sane, that keeps me able to deal with the world…

Capitalism sucks… The problem with living within a capitalist society is that everything must be monetized… Including art…  Its taken me all these years to become mildly comfortable with the idea that art and money are two separate things. If i said i was a writer and i needed to write in order to stay sane and alive it would be understood. If i said i was a painter and i needed to paint in order to stay sane and alive it would be understood. If i was a singer or a musician and needed to my make music in order to keep me sane and alive it would be understood.

However when it comes to filmmaking the idea of needing to make a film in order to stay sane and alive seems a harder concept to grasp because it requires so much capital to make a film… And that idea isn’t just harder to grasp for everyone else but for me as well… Becoming comfortable with the idea that my sanity and my life depends on making films is difficult for me to process, difficult for me to swallow… Even a no budget film requires some capital even if that capital is the time and energy it takes to make it. And if that capital of time and energy is being spent on making a film then it’s not being spent on creating capital for myself or others… And so i have struggled with the elitism of needing to make a film in order to stay sane and alive…

“And to all my friends
who’ve been the best to me
Soon will be the day
I’ll repay you handsomely”
– Big Audio Dynamite

It’s all coming to a head though… i’m maturing enough to understand that being an anti-capitalist in this capitalist world means being forced into living the contradiction… It means learning to balance the idea of doing something for love without abusing the ones who support you… It means learning to weigh your idealism against your reality… It means walking the tight rope of keeping your options open to selling your art to keep your soul and your self intact and in doing so maybe on a certain level keeping the soul and self of everyone who supported you along the way intact as well…

They say only two things in life are unavoidable – death and taxes… But for artist’s it’s much more complicated… For artists it’s death, art and taxes… Usually when people say taxes they mean paying the state a portion of your “earned” wages… But it’s all taxes to me… The concern for me as to how i will make a living is taxing… The concern of my friends and how they will make “a living” is taxing… The idea of “making it” so that my friends and my family don’t ever have to explain why they stand by me (not that i know if they do have to explain or not but i imagine that they do) is taxing… The 800 pound gorilla in my head collateralizing more and more of my thoughts and energies is a tax…

i’m finding it hard to find a way to end this little essay of self-indulgence… It was not my intent when i started writing this to say any of what i have said… My intent was to write about the joy of making another film with a new camera and how much it pushed away all the sorrow and hurt and depression and bad feelings i have been living with for so long since i was last shooting a film… i guess it’s difficult to write about the joy filmmaking brings me without talking about the pain it also brings…

Look at the picture at the top… That smile is me at my happiest… me at my most joyful… Look at the crew… Jeff “AK” my DP with the long board that double as our dolly, Omar’s daughter Mo, on my right shoulder (who is the star of this latest short film) seeing her work for the first time that night… Joe my producer who doubled as the sound man with his daughter Soliann finally seeing the fruits of our insanity… And Omar who is also a filmmaker and took the production stills, who i know is feeling good because he has a camera in his hands… Even the strangers – the woman looking over my head and the young girl in the background with the baseball hat on – are curious about what could be so important and what could be making so many people happy to on that little screen…

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1pz

THE FUTURE IS WRITTEN


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i’ve never been one to shoot stuff i don’t really intend to use so when i wanted to shoot another test for the Red Epic i had to come up with something that could have a life beyond being simply a camera test. For a while now i’ve wanted to shoot a time-lapse of an art project that i thought would be fun and interesting to do. It entailed some posters i had silkscreen years ago from some designs i did for my company Audio Visual Terrorism. So i combined that idea of making this art piece with the camera test and voila… the future is written…

Jeff “AK” Akers my cinematographer on MACHETERO (go see that film – it kicks ass and not just because i made but just because it does) and co-conspirator on more than a few other films. Jeff not only handled the cinematography duties but he also literally jumped into the film. My pit bull Mya makes a short cameo at the end because who doesn’t love adorable pit bulls?

vagabond on stage
vagabond on stage
vagabond doing his best Ivan from The Harder They Come
vagabond doing his best Ivan from The Harder They Come
Jumping Jeff's
Jumping Jeff’s
vagabond & Mya
vagabond & Mya

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1p8

Asking For Mercy From The Victims Of Violence


Prison Interview Rehearsal with Isaach de Bankolé, vagabond & Not4Prophet
Prison Interview Rehearsal with Isaach de Bankolé, vagabond & Not4Prophet

This is another 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.

TRAILER

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CONTEXT ON THE SCRIPT EXCERPT

For some context to the script 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.

In the film the questions and answers are all in voice over with other images contrasting the dialogue. This scene is the climax of the film where for the first time we see and hear Jean and Pedro face to face and understand for the first time that the interview we have been hearing all along is this interview. In the film this dialogue goes on for much longer than is here so if this interests you consider renting or buying MACHETERO digitally…

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.

EXCERPT FROM THE SCRIPT
JEAN AND PEDRO FACE TO FACE

JEAN
The US government has a policy of not making deals with terrorists.

PEDRO
“For the strong to hear the weak their ears will have to be opened with bullets” – Albizu.

JEAN
You had to know that you would have been caught eventually.

PEDRO
“It took seven of them to break my jaw, but the power of the whole American empire could not break my spirit.” – Rafa

JEAN
Sedition is a crime punishable by death in this country.

PEDRO
“I didn’t come to kill I came to die.” – Lolita.

JEAN
So you thought you could change the mind of the US congress with bullets? How will violence liberate you? Hasn’t the time of political power through violence passed? Haven’t the examples of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and even someone still here with us today Nelson Mandela shown us a new way? In South Africa black Africans are forgiving their white oppressors in an attempt to break this cycle of violence and hatred. Do you really believe violence will change anything?

PEDRO
Are you asking for mercy from the victims of violence? Have you asked those who want me dead, to show me mercy?

JEAN
Are you asking for mercy? Are you asking your oppressor for your freedom?

PEDRO
My freedom is not something that my oppressors can give me. My freedom is something that I take.

JEAN
Killing US congressmen and CEO’s and bombing US military targets is taking your freedom?

PEDRO
Yes.

JEAN
Your freedom? Doesn’t that sound egotistical, self-centered and selfish? Is that what this is all about? Your freedom? I thought you were fighting for more than that? I thought you were fighting for the freedom of your country. I thought you were fighting for ideals. I thought you were fighting for something greater than yourself.

PEDRO
No one is free until all of us are free. Steven Biko said “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” The decolonization of self is the decolonization of the nationless nation.

STILLS FROM THE PRISON SET

These are some stills taken from the prison set which was shot in an actual prison. The prison is the old Bronx House of Detention on River Ave just a stones throw from the old Yankee Stadium. The Bronx House of Detention is now gone. Replaced by a shopping mall. A Target now sits in its place.

TRAILER

[vimeo 75167575 w=600&h=337]

GOOGLE VOD & DOWNLOAD

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1oj

Pedro’s Got A Pipebomb Set For The 4th Of July


MACHETERO July 4th by vagabond ©
MACHETERO July 4th by vagabond ©

Pedro’s got a pipe bomb set for the fourth of July
a detonator slow fuse Loisaida
high demolition dope fiends toking Tompkins Square
take the world in hand and fuck it.
When Pedro died the shitstem lied and Hiram and Elias tried
as Ponce bled Jayuya spread and Oscar and Griselo fled
with dreams and dignity a people could be free
through selfless sacrifice a nation could rise.

Pedro’s got a pipe bomb but the boom is on loan
broken-English hype-dreams sleep in skin and bone
consecrated crack heads sucking strangled tongues…
When Pedro died the sanctified Lolita and Boriqua pride
as Lares screamed Utado dreamed
and presidents and preachers schemed
of land and liberty and country tis of thee
the selfish satisfied a nation would rise.

Tired of the bullshit the rat race and dog piss.
The poverty pimps future feels like a slit wrist.
I’m a goddamn Boriqua and I got me a plan
gonna bumrush this shitstem however I can!
Pedro’s got a pipe bomb.
Pedro’s got a pipe bomb.
Pedro’s got a pipe bomb….
– Pedro’s Grave by RICANSTRUCTION

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Twelve years ago i wrote the script to MACHETERO. Nine years ago i began shooting the film then scrapped it. 8 years ago i began to shoot the film again. Seven years ago the first cut came in at 55 minutes. We screened it and got some feedback. Then we came up with some more ideas. We improvised. Six years ago we shot more. Recut the film and it was 85 minutes. Then we screened it and got some feedback. Then we had some more ideas and we shot some more. The film was done five years ago its final running time was 98 minutes…

Then the film went on tour around the world doing festivals in Vancouver, Los Angeles, South Africa, Egypt, Thailand, Wales, England, Ireland, and of course here in NY. It won awards in South Africa, Wales, England, Thailand, Ireland and NY. In June of 2013 i self-released the film theatrically for a week in the Lower East Side of NYC. On September 23rd of 2013, i released the film on Vimeo On Demand…

And now in 2014, Pedro’s got a pipebomb set for the 4th of July… On July 4th, 12 years after the script was written MACHETERO will be available for people to download and own… Now you can watch it on demand for 48 hours or you can download it and watch it whenever you like which is really the best way to do it…

Why buy MACHETERO? Because it’s a densely layered film. It was made to be watched again and again. It was designed so that multiple viewings  reveal something you didn’t quite see the first or second or third time you saw the film… It’s a film that has the potential to grow consciousness and whose consciousness grows with you every time you see it…

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1nN

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

Something Beautiful


Something Beautiful by vagabond ©
Something Beautiful by vagabond ©

Last Poet Abiodun Oyewole has a new book coming out this Spring from publisher 2Leaf Press called Branches Of The Tree Of Life. It’s an omnibus collection spanning over four decades of poetry. It will feature an introduction by Sonia Sanchez and is being edited by 2Leaf’s publisher Gabrielle David. i produced and directed a few short films for 2Leaf Press to help promote the book. Something Beautiful is the first in a series of short films highlighting the life and poetry of Abiodun.

Branches Of The Tree Of Life cover by vagabond ©
Branches Of The Tree Of Life cover by vagabond ©

Something Beautiful was shot over two rainy days. i got the idea to shoot in the rain after talking to University of Connecticut professor and fellow 2Leaf Press author Lisa Sanchez Gonzalez. The poem is about Abiodun struggling to say something beautiful but hampered by a cocktail of bad thoughts, bad feelings and unresolved history flooding his day and making it almost impossible to say something beautiful. i wanted it to seem as though it was the rain that was hampering his ability to say something beautiful but as the film progresses it’s the rain that is beautiful and it’s Abiodun in this space who is struggling with these bad thoughts and bad feelings and unresolved history.

My DP Jeff “AK” Akers did a fantastic job shooting the film. He found ways to make beautiful images out of the mundane. He took drain pipes and reflections and graffiti and dark skies and men pushing a shopping cart and transformed them using a delicate balance of composition, light and darkness, so that each shot evoked a kind of fragile tenderness… i’ve been working with Jeff for many years, he has a keen eye and resourcefulness for stripping away the artifice and getting to the essence of things… He had a huge role in making Something Beautiful, beautiful…

Abiodun’s Branches Of The Tree Of Life will be out soon, keep an eye out for it, as well as a few other short films i’ll be releasing around the book…

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1lX