Tag Archives: Isaach De Bankolé

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

 

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

[vimeo 75167575 w=600&h=337]

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

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.

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

PEDRO
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.

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

PEDRO
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.

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

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

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

PEDRO
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

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

[vimeo 75167575]

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

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

Isaach de Bankolé Critiques MACHETERO


vagabond, Jeff"AK", Melvin & Isaach De Bankolé on the prison set of MACHETERO
vagabond, Jeff”AK”, Melvin & Isaach De Bankolé on the prison set of MACHETERO

Isaach de Bankolé is the biggest film star in MACHETERO, he’s worked with some of the most creative and adventurous directors of our time, Jim Jarmusch, Claire Denis, Michael Mann, Nicolas Roeg, Lars Von Trier, he’s also the lynch pin in this film. Isaach anchors the narrative of the MACHETERO and that allows the film to experiment with structure and storytelling. When i finished cutting MACHETERO Isaach hadn’t seen it because he was working in Spain with Jim Jarmusch on THE LIMITS OF CONTROL. When Isaach got back i met with him in Harlem to give him a copy of the film. He was excited to see it and said he would get back to me as soon as he saw it to let me know his thoughts.

A few days later Issach called me and told me he loved the film but that he had a suggestion to make and could we meet to talk. The first thing he wanted to tell me was that i had to see THE LIMITS OF CONTROL. He felt LIMITS and MACHETERO shared more than a few similarities. i went to see shortly after we met and could see what he was talking about both in terms of the lone hero doing the impossible and in terms of themes about control and freedom.

Isaach then went on to give me his critique of MACHETERO. He thought the first two-thirds of the film were intense and claustrophobic in a way that won’t allow the audience to catch it’s breathe. He felt that the film doesn’t exhale and draw a second breathe until the first scene in Puerto Rico.

i could understand what he was saying. i had designed the first two-thirds of the film to be pure rage and frustration. i wanted the audience to feel Pedro’s intensity and yearning and imprisonment. i wanted the audience to feel the anger of a dream long fought for and unfulfilled. Of course with Issach’s critique Issach had given me a fresh perspective, a new way of seeing the film, and i have to admit that it was a beautiful way to look at the film.

Isaach had described the film in terms of being an organic living breathing thing. People often talk about bringing a film to life or that a film has a life of it own, and these seem to be poetic ways of speaking about any artistic endeavor. But i had never thought of applying that concept to the structure. What Issach had seen and brought up to me was that the film was literally fighting for it’s life… it didn’t breath or take a breathe for the first two acts.

This analogy of a living breathing structure lead me to think more about what i had initially created. The construction of the first two-thirds of the film in this intense, claustrophobic almost suffocating way was my way of trying to transport the audience into a state of what it’s like to be oppressed and colonized. This inability to take a breath, is like the desire to be free. The frustration and rage of being oppressed won’t allow a breath when one needs it. While you’re struggling to be free, you have to choose your time to take a breath wisely, because those who oppress you have restricted your right to breathe when you want. This is oppression, this is colonialism…

With Issach’s brilliant analysis of the film the first two-thirds of the film may be too constricted by this idea and in a way it may be too much for an audience to handle right away. His suggestion was to introduce some of the scenes of Puerto Rico and let those scenes be the breathe that needs to be had within those first two-thirds. It really was a brilliant analysis and i immediately took those ideas to heart and went back to the edit and try a few things.

When i went back to edit the film the idea of taking a moment to allow the film to breathe in the first two acts brought up another idea that would never have happened if it hadn’t been for Isaach’s critique. i recut the film to include flashbacks to Puerto Rico and to a young boy on the beach swinging a machete and to flashbacks of The Mentor (played by former US held Puerto Rican Political Prisoner of War Dylcia Pagan) looking out into the distance. These images helped relate to the audience what it was that Pedro Taino (played by RICANSTRUCTION lead singer Not4Prophet) was fighting for. i also used an image of the Pedro Taino character standing on a beach in Puerto Rico and looking out into the sea. The shot is from behind his head and make gives a kind of surreal quality to the shot since we don’t see his face and we can’t tell if the shot is a flash forward or a flashback….

In the process of recutting the film i managed to add another thematic layer to the film. Isaach’s critique had opened me up to something. When i started to edit the young boy on the beach swinging a machete in Puerto Rico and edit that image into the narrative to bring a breathe into the film, the rhythm of the young boy swinging the machete and the repetitious frequency way i which i used that image made me think of the young boy as a ghost, an apparition, haunting Pedro Taino. The young boy swinging the machete became on the beach in Puerto Rico became the spirit of the Machetero haunting Pedro Taino, urging him to do more, haunting him with the idea that the responsibility to free Puerto Rico was his…

It really emphasized the idea that Pedro Taino was driven by something deeper… It drove the idea home that a spirit of resistance had come into him and that Pedro had accepted the responsibility of being Machetero… i feel like that image humanized Pedro Taino’s character… It also took off some of the edge of the frustration and anger in the film that wouldn’t allow it to breathe as Isaach so eloquently put it… It was really a beautiful sentiment that would never have been had it not been for Isaach’s critique of MACHETERO…

MACHETERO opens in New York City for a one week limited theatrical run.

WED. JUNE 12TH – TUES JUNE 19TH
CLEMENTE SOTO VELEZ
KABAYITO’S THEATER (2ND FLOOR)
107 SUFFOLK STREET
NY NY 10002
(BTWN RIVINGTON & DELANCEY)

TICKETS $10
SCREENING TIMES • 1PM • 3PM • 5PM • 7PM • 9PM
F Train to Delancey Street or J , M , or Z Trains to Essex Street.
Walk to Suffolk Street, make a left.

If you’re on Facebook Check out our MACHETERO Facebook Page and check out the Facebook Event page… 

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-14F

Radical Politics Radical Filmmaking On The Streets Of NY


Isaach de Bankholé as Jean Dumont The Journalist
Isaach de Bankholé as Jean Dumont The Journalist

Machetero, is a film whose guerrilla production matches both the film’s visual aesthetic and its narrative. It tells two stories concurrently: one in which imprisoned revolutionary Pedro Taino (Not4Prophet) is interviewed by a journalist (Jarmush regular Isaach De Bankolé, pictured), and the other about the political awakening of a young man (Kelvin Fernandez) on the streets of New York. As directed and written by Vagabond, Machetero’s radical politics extend to the film’s non-linear narrative, and its use of on-screen titles, foregrounding the revolutionary literature passed amongst the characters, as well as lyrics from the soundtrack by the NYC-based band Ricanstruction (of which Not4Prophet is the lead singer). Recently, I spoke to Vagabond about the film’s intersections of art and politics.” – Cullen Gallagher

Could you say a little about the word “Machetero,” where it comes from, and why you chose it as your title?
The direct Spanish translation of the word “machetero” is someone who works with a machete. However, there is a cultural definition to the word that is unique to Puerto Rico. The “Macheteros” were sugarcane field workers who fought against Spanish colonial rule, and when the US invaded Puerto Rico in 1898 during the Spanish-American war, they fought against the Americans as well. In the late 1960s, Puerto Rican independence leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios started a clandestine armed organization called “Ejercito Popular Boricua” (“Popular Puerto Rican Army”). Puerto Ricans throughout the Diaspora called them “Macheteros”.

The title of the film comes from a saying the Macheteros had, “¡Todo Boricua Machetero!” (“All Puerto Ricans Are Machetero!”) which connected Puerto Ricans to their revolutionary past. When I thought more about that saying, it seemed to me that what the EPB was trying to do was to create this idea of the Machetero as warrior and protector of the Puerto Rican people in much the same way that the Samurai is in Japan.

How did the revolutionary politics of the film affect your aesthetic approach to the film?
The film had to be radically unconventional in the same way that guerrilla warfare is radically unconventional. The reason revolutionaries use guerrilla tactics is because they don’t have access to fighter jets or tanks, so they make do with what they have. They become resourceful with their tactics in order to achieve their goals. It was the same with making Machetero. The structure of the film was devised in a way to make the shooing of the film easier. The use of voice-over in the film allowed us to shoot most of the film without having to worry or rely too much on shooting sync sound. The voice-over dialogue was recorded first so that we could juxtapose images against it. As a result, we could shift images and timelines around because the voice-over dialogue was the foundation from which the rest of the film was built on. As long as the voice-over dialogue had some sense of continuity, the images that accompany it had a freedom that could not otherwise be afforded to us if we shot the film conventionally. Since the film thematically is about finding a way to achieve freedom, it only enhanced the theme to have a certain freedom in the narrative structure to the film. The on-screen titles were also another way of playing with the narrative structure in the film, since many of them either allude to character and time or thematic issues the film raises. The subject matter of revolution doesn’t allow for conventional filmmaking or conventional storytelling.

How do you see your film fitting into the larger framework of politicized cinema? You mention Solanas and Getino’s essay “Towards a Third Cinema” on your website, but I was also reminded of Paradise Now.
I actually read Solanas and Getino’s “Towards A Third Cinema” toward the end of making Machetero. I came across the essay and immediately thought that this is what Machetero is. For those not familiar with Third Cinema, First Cinema is Hollywood commercial film and Second Cinema is the European art film or the European auteur film. Third Cinema is a response from the third world to create a cinema that would reflect the reality of poor and struggling people and inspire them to extricate themselves from whatever situation oppresses them. When the essay was initially written, it was calling for third world filmmakers to create a cinema that was reflective of their reality. Although I was born in Brooklyn and have lived in the US all my life, and a majority of Machetero was made here in the US, the colonial condition that Puerto Ricans have lived under both on the island and in the US has been one of third world proportions, so I felt comfortable relating Machetero to Third Cinema.

I made Machetero to raise questions about the way in which the labels like “terrorist” and “terrorism” are used and what that means to people who may feel that the only means to free themselves from these oppressive situations is to use violence. That violence is often described and defined by the state and its media apparatus as “terrorism”. One of the ideas that I’m trying to put forward in Machetero is that violence is a language that oppressors choose to use and that those who struggle against it and respond in kind are speaking the same language as their oppressors in an effort to get them to use another means of communication. However this decision to use violence as a means of communication is not a decision that oppressed people come to easily. This may be where you see a parallel to Hany Abu Assad’s film Paradise Now, which was definitely a source of inspiration for Machetero.

In recent years there has been much controversy surrounding rights of filmmakers to shoot on the streets of New York. As an independent filmmaker, what was your experience like?
One of the things I do to make a living is provide location services to production companies, so I know what I can get away with and what I can’t get away with or at least how much of a risk I’m taking if I do decide to work outside “the regulations” or “the law.” I shot everything but one scene in Machetero without permits or permission. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have problems with the police. There were five different encounters with law enforcement that varied from simply hiding from the cops to being arrested. Before I madeMachetero I wrote a manifesto called “Illegalist Cinema: The Cinema of Cine-automatic” that put art before legality in the filmmaking process.

Over the years I’ve seen the tightening restrictions that the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting has put on independent filmmakers. It used to be easier to make a film in this town but lately it’s been getting harder and harder. That being said the Mayor’s Office still needs to make it easy enough for larger productions to come to the city and shoot, and as an independent filmmaker it’s important to exploit some of those incentives to our own benefit.

This interview was first published in L Magazine here

MACHETERO opens in New York City for a one week limited theatrical run.

WED. JUNE 12TH – TUES JUNE 19TH
CLEMENTE SOTO VELEZ
KABAYITO’S THEATER (2ND FLOOR)
107 SUFFOLK STREET
NY NY 10002
(BTWN RIVINGTON & DELANCEY)

TICKETS $10
SCREENING TIMES • 1PM • 3PM • 5PM • 7PM • 9PM
F Train to Delancey Street or J , M , or Z Trains to Essex Street.
Walk to Suffolk Street, make a left.

If you’re on Facebook Check out our MACHETERO Facebook Page and check out the Facebook Event page… 

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-16z