Published On: Wed, Jul 22nd, 2009

Nuestra Arte: Dylcia’s History Lesson

This clip is from the film MACHETERO where the Young Rebel (played by Kelvin Fernandez) dreams of his childhood and of his mentor (played by Dylcia Pagan). His mentor recounts the 500-year history of struggle for Puerto Rico's autonomy and how when he grows up he must carry that struggle on.
I have included some comments from Vagabond Beaumont (one of the film's creators) about how this scene came about. After you watch this clip make sure you visit the official website of this award winning film MACHETERO and if you are in NYC, make sure you check out the new cut that premieres August 1st, 2009 at the New York International Latino Film Festival…Buen Provecho!!!!
As I am,
George Torres
The Urban Jibaro



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.

The role that Dylcia Pagan played in the film although small (she’s only in two scenes) was crucial. Her specific role was as a mentor but her specific relationship to the Young Rebel and to Pedro Taino however was intentionally left open to interpretation. In Puerto Rico as in the African tradition a village raises a child and so I wanted Dylcia to be mother, grandmother, aunt and neighbor. Her role also helped solidify two concurrent ideas in terms of the relationship that the Young Rebel and Pedro Taino share with Dylcia. One interpretation that could be drawn from these scenes was that both characters are sharing flashback scenes that incorporated the same grave and memories of this mentor that Dylcia played because she influenced them both as two separate characters. Another interpretation that is inferred is that the Young Rebel and Not4Prophet are the same character living in the same time. This is physically impossible in real life but completely possible in cinema and makes for an interesting idea that only served to further illustrate the cyclical themes of violence presented in the film.

This scene takes place pretty late in the film and it’s the scene that really illustrates what it is that’s at stake in terms of revealing the natural beauty of Puerto Rico. Up until this point the film has been full of rage and anger and although that rage and anger may be completely warranted and justified I wanted to switch gears with this scene and have the emotional core of the scene be one of sadness. I wanted that sadness to be the seed for all the rage and anger that is felt throughout the rest of the film. It was difficult to pull off, the scene had to be played with a certain subtlety and without an air of nostalgia. The way to do this was to have this dream scene be a scene in which the Young Rebel remembers who he is and what he must do going forward. This took the nostalgic edge off the scene and gave the scene a relevance to his future.

The music in this scene was improvised during the final sound mix for the film. The percussion work in the cemetery is an Afro-Rican rhythm that has its roots in Loiza where we shot all the Puerto Rican scenes for the film. Joseph Rodriguez the drummer and percussionist for RICANSTRUCTION is doing what’s know as a bomba rhythm. This rhythm is credited to the Africans who brought it over to Puerto Rico as slaves. Shortly after slavery was abolished in Puerto Rico the area of Loiza was set aside for the newly freed slaves to live and so Loiza is an important cultural haven for the African roots of Puerto Rico and Joseph is paying homage to those roots with this bomba.

When the dream moves to the Young Rebel as a boy carrying his machete and his coconut Joseph and his brother Arturo the bass player for RICANSTRUCTION did some overlapping classic but funky jibaro (people from the mountains of Puerto Rico) guitar work. The music was a great departure in terms of sound from the rest of the film. The musical score that RICANSTRUCTION created and the songs from the album Liberation Day that were incorporated into the film all have those Afro-Rican roots and rhythms and to them. The difference being the punk influenced aggression, noise and distortion that’s added to create another dimension to the music. The score and the songs in the New York scenes are filled with those added elements and with these tracks all that is stripped away and this helped drive the emotional return to Puerto Rico. These tracks helped to serve as a reminder of what it is that Pedro and the Young Rebel are fighting for. Joseph and Arturo achieved an even balance here with these tracks because they weren’t full of some sort of cultural nostalgia they still have a very contemporary funky feel to them that doesn’t compromise the genres integrity.

Nuestra Arte: Dylcia’s History Lesson