‘Machetero’, a film about the struggle for the independence of Puerto Rico from US imperialism

[For the new generation of activists, the inspiration, experiences and lessons of the Puerto Rican liberation struggle  and other empire-shaking movements of the 20th Century are the raw material from which strategies of new revolutionary movements will be forged.  This new film begins to ask a critical question for revolutionaries:  Is there a difference between violence and revolutionary violence, and if so, what is it?  There is a distance between that question and the answer, which may only be answered in the struggle of new generations. This film will kindle that discussion and ferment.–Frontlines ed.]

Machetero studies aspects of the Puerto Rican independence movement, with attention to the more radical-minded fighters for freedom. It offers meditation and debate on violence as a means to achieve results in the struggle for dignity. Machetero is artist, writer, producer, and director Vagabond Beaumont’s first feature film. This controversial film has “engendered political discussion and debate within (and outside of) the Puerto Rican Diaspora and has been called one of the most important and insightful underground political films ever made.” In 2008 it was a finalist for Best Film at the Hollywood Black Film Festival and, in the same year, it won the prize for Best First Film at the International Film Festival South Africa. The film has won six awards around the world.

MACHETERO — Synopsis

In the tradition of Gillo Pontecorvo’s Battle Of Algiers, Melvin Van Peebles Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song and Sam Greenlee’s The Spook Who Sat By The Door, Vagabond’s MACHETERO is a meditation on violence as a means toward liberation. Post 9/11 definitions, ideas and notions of terrorism are challenged in this highly controversial and experimental film. Machetero is an allegorical narrative that follows French journalist Jean Dumont, played by Isaach de Bankolé (The Keeper, Ghost Dog, Manderlay, Casino Royale, The Limits Of Control), to a New York prison where he interviews Pedro Taino, a so-called “Puerto Rican Terrorist” played by Not4Prophet (lead singer of the Puerto Punk band RICANSTRUCTION).

Pedro is a self-described Machetero fighting to free Puerto Rico from the yoke of United States colonialism. He is obsessed with freedom, freedom for his country, his people and for himself. Jean questions Pedro about his decision to use violence as a means to achieve that freedom. Jean utilizes a global perspective in questioning Pedro, referencing examples of achieving his goals through more peaceful means.  However Jean soon finds that Pedro is well versed in liberation struggles from around the world and their debate over the use of violence as a catalyst for change escalates.

As Jean and Pedro speak, another story unfolds. A ghetto youth played by Kelvin Fernandez (in his first starring role) grows up in the streets doing what he has to do to survive. The ghetto youth crosses paths with Pedro who sees the potential in him. Pedro tries to provide the means for him to grow into the next generation of Machetero by giving him a pamphlet he wrote called the Anti-Manifesto. The ghetto youth reads the Anti-Manifesto and it reawakens a revolutionary spirit instilled in him from childhood by a mentor in Puerto Rico (played by former Puerto Rican Prisoner of War Dylcia Pagan, who served 20 years in US prisons). The ghetto youth develops into a young rebel driven by the cause to liberate his people. As Jean and Pedro’s debate rages on, the cycle of violence that begins in the exploitation and subjugation of imperialism becomes complete in the life of another ghetto youth turned revolutionary.

The structure of Machetero is built around songs from “Liberation Day”, a concept album centered on the liberation struggle of Puerto Rico, written and preformed by RICANSTRUCTION. The songs in the film took on the quality of a narrative voice becoming a modern day Greek chorus. RICANSTRUCTION also provides a completely improvised original score that moves from hardcore be-bop punk to layered haunting and abstract Afro-Rican rhythms.

Machetero is about terrorism and terrorists, how they are defined and by whom. It is a film that asks us to challenge the way in which we view the events that play out in the world. It is a film about the cyclical nature of violence that is perpetuated by those who choose to oppress and those who no longer wish to be oppressed.

For synopsis and trailer, see http://www.machetero-movie.com/MACHETERO/Synopsis_Clips.html

For more on the film, see http://www.machetero-movie.com/MACHETERO/Welcome.html

One thought on “‘Machetero’, a film about the struggle for the independence of Puerto Rico from US imperialism

  1. Pingback: Singing The Praises | MACHETERO

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