I remember the first time I was made aware of MACHETERO. It was a powerful-looking poster which hung in Urban Latino’s studios in Brooklyn, NYC. I walked by it while heading to one of the studios as I prepped for a radio show. The image slowly engraved itself in my brain, and being a person who usually goes with his gut, it was a wrap. I remember snapping a picture of it and as soon as I got home, I started researching the film. All it took was reading the film’s synopsis and tagline (“Pedro’s got a pipe bomb set for the 4th of July”) to just say “YES! This is something I’d like to see.” From that moment on it was a domino effect. Following it on the, site and Facebook only raised the level of desire to screen it, and with great pleasure I finally did. Having spear-headed the first Revolutionary Latino Film Festival in Harlem, NY, it was an unforgettable experience which followed one of the most open and uncensored Q&As I’ve ever participated in – and trust me, I’ve been to LOTS.
MACHETERO embarks on a toe-to-toe interview between a French journalist Jean Dumont (played by Isaach de Baknole) and Pedro Taino (played by Not4Prophet), a self-titled Machetero and “Puerto Rican terrorist,” fighting for the liberation of a colonized Puerto Rico. Finding himself puzzled, Jean’s main focal point stems from Pedro’s utilization of violence in order to obtain freedom. Intertwined with the interview, the story also presents a young ghetto kid (played by Kelvin Fernandez) trapped in a web of constant violence. Influenced by Pedro and a mentor (played by Dylcia Pagan) during his childhood while in Puerto Rico, the well-paced structure of his maturity leads him to become the next generation of freedom fighting Macheteros. A major part of the film’s narrative formatting is presented by music of Puerto Rican Punk Band, Ricanstruction, whose album “Liberation Day” renders a lot of poetic-like revolutionary wording and messages.
Whether MACHETERO is a history lesson or not can be debated till we’re blue in the face. But if there’s something you cannot take away from this precious gem of a film is that it digs deep within the darkest most controversial aspects of Puerto Rico’s questionable relationship with the United States. Four hundred years of Spanish oppression followed with another hundred plus years under the U.S. after the Spanish-American war has led its past/present natives to live one of the sketchiest and fucked up experiences ever. Sugar-coated with limited freedoms and the imposing of corrupt governments to oversee the island has sparked a fuse which burned quickly and ignited an explosive revolt. From large crowds of natives and those with Puerto Rican heritage, there’s been a mass outreach and noise generated from loud stomps and rattles within their “golden cages.” Current events display exactly what I’m talking about – I suggest you start reading if you’re unaware – and with straightforward artists like Vagabond, his masterpiece, MACHETERO, elevates the existence of revolutionary rebuttal(s) as MOST of us are conditioned to forced-fed “knowledge.”
A major plus for this film is how simple and subtle Vagabond kept it. There wasn’t any of that overrated CGI shit or over-the-top bad acting one sees between WWE wrestlers. It was there for you to grasp one step at a time, and before I knew it, I was in too deep. This has to be one of the most politically insightful, impulsive and important pieces ever for me to visualize. MACHETERO is indeed a no bullshitting up-front film! And truth is that’s exactly what I enjoyed MOST. The rugged truthfulness was crisp and passion behind dialog/narration was intriguing. Nowadays filmmakers pussyfoot around with too much of the politically correctness to embrace suits, but in the end, they’re nothing but sell-outs. Vagabond in a sense took this ball and flew with it. He took it to a place where the bar was set extremely high. If anything, I see him as someone who opened up the doors to other independent filmmakers to say “Fuck it!” and go there. This film is one of few Latino-based pieces that discuss Puerto Rico in a defiant way. Will there be those who have a different approach once they see MACHETERO? Of course! It’s the Ying to Yang or 6 to 9, however; that’s the beauty of utilizing art as one’s way to fight back. It’s created, presented and no matter who cries or says what, it’s here to stay. I can only hope this piece keeps screening throughout the world. It’s an educational treat – especially if granted the landing on Latin-American soil.
For more information on MACHETERO, go to www.MACHETERO-MOVIE.com
GENRE: Political Drama/Crime
ROARS: 5 Out of 5
CAST: Isaach De Bankole, Not4Prophet, Kelvin Fernandez, Dylcia Pagan
DIRECTOR: Vagabond Beaumont