Here's the original review:
When people stand outside for over an hour after the time a film is supposed to begin, you know they really want to see the film. I was among at least 50 other ticket holders to see the film Machetero, one of the last films shown for the New York International Latino Film Festival. Cataloged under “On The Edge,” Machetero tells a story of what some may call “revolutionary violence.”
As one of the largest crowds I saw in attendance to a film that was not marketed as a special screening, we were eager to get into the theater. Writer, director, and producer Vagabond was present and shared his excitement for the evening and also prepared us to see a film that was not like any other we’ve seen before.
With the entire soundtrack of the film coming from Puerto Punk/fusion band Ricanstruction’s (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ricanstruction) Liberation Day album, the cast includes the lead vocalist from the band, Not4Profit as Pedro Taino, a self-identified Machetero fighting for the liberation of the island of Puerto Rico. Joining Not4Profit is Isaach de Bankolé (Casino Royale, Ghost Dog, 3 A.M.) as French journalist Jean Dumont, Kelvin Fernandez as “the Young Rebel” who is inspired to revolutionary action after coming into contact with Pedro and his writings, and Dylcia Pagán former Puerto Rican political prisoner who plays a childhood mentor that “the Young Rebel” had in Puerto Rico.
We watch the evolution of Pedro Taino’s efforts towards educating himself about struggles of independence from around the world and the history of his own homeland of Puerto Rico. Taino’s activism leads him to be labeled as a “Puerto Rican terrorist,” wanted by the police, especially after 9/11. Before he is incarcerated, Taino writes the Anti-Manifesto, which the Young Rebel reads and is moved to action.
The film reveals the consciousness-raising of the Young Rebel which occurs as Pedro Taino is incarcerated and interviewed by journalist Jean Dumont. As Dumont tries to understand Taino’s actions, the Young Rebel’s revolutionary spirit is awakened. He has memories as a young boy in Puerto Rico who is mentored on the beach by Pagán who instills his birthright of fighting for the liberation of the island of Puerto Rico.
What we witness is a story of how colonization and oppression is passed down to our youth and efforts to change what is transmitted to them and each other. This is an important film that demonstrates that youth have more power than we wish to recognize, and that we can change how we perceive sovereignty and how we seek to support and obtain independence in multiple ways.
One of my favorite aspects of the film, that is often overlooked, is Vagabond’s representation of women in the struggle for independence and ending oppression. Pagán’s character is the image and original voice that guides the Young Rebel. The other female character is the girlfriend of the Young Rebel who expresses her interest in the Anti-Manifesto that he was given and that he shares with her. Women are a central part of this story.
After the film, Vagabond was present to answer any questions the audience had. He shared that Machetero has been screened internationally and has won numerous accolades from international film screenings from South Africa to Thailand. One of the surprising findings Vagabond shares is that many international communities do not know that Puerto Rico remains without sovereignty and independence.
The take home message for me: we all have a revolutionary spirit that seeks to guide us towards ending oppression and colonization. What will happen when we choose to recognize the existence of this revolutionary spirit? Do we not realize the power we have?