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, Coffee and Cigarettes, Manderlay), 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 decisions 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.
Puerto Rico is one of the oldest colonies on the planet. It's colonization goes back to Columbus and Spain and has extended into the present day with the US. Carlos Alberto Torres is a former US held Puerto Rican political prisoner and prisoner of war. He served 30 years in US prisons. This is a short video about how those 30 years spent in prison played and continue to play a role in the liberation struggle of Puerto Rico.
MACHETERO is a six time internationally awarded film about the Puerto Rican independence movement. In this excerpt from the film The Young Rebel (played by Kelvin Fernandez) dreams of himself as a child (played by Francisco Sanchez Rivera) bringing a coconut to The Mentor (played by Dylcia Pagan) a purposefully vague character who could be a mother, grandmother, aunt or neighbor. The “FUTURE” title that comes up on the screen as we see the Young Rebel as a boy is not so much a chronological representation but one of character. In the film Pedro Taino “the terrorist” is the “PAST” and Jean Dumont the journalist is the “PRESENT” while the Young Rebel represents the “FUTURE”. So when these titles appear on the screen throughout the film they are not chronological representations but characteristic representations. As the young boy comes running through the tress with his machete and his coconut Dylcia is sitting on the beach smoking a cigar (as older Puerto Rican women will) and proceeds to tell him the history of Puerto Rico’s 500-year struggle for autonomy. She tells him that he must one day continue to carry on that tradition of struggle when he grows up.
I never wrote any dialogue for this scene. I spoke to Dylcia about what it was that I was looking for and what it was that the story needed in terms of tone and intent. She took it from there and improvised all the dialogue compressing 500-years of history into a 3-minute story. It was amazing to watch.