Black August marked the 212th anniversary of the Haitian Revolution of 1791 to 1804 led by Toussaint L’Ouverture—the only successful slave rebellion in modern recorded history.
Thus Haiti became the first independent Black republic in the world. However to this day, France forces Haiti to pay an “independence debt”—or reparations—totaling billions, to compensate long-dead colonists for the slaves who had won their freedom from Napoléon Bonaparte.
Overcoming incredible odds, having few guns and ammunition, slaves of African descent wielded machetes, the very tool they used to labor on sugar plantations, to achieve freedom.
It is from this rich legacy that short doc Papa Machete, written and executive produced by Jason Fitzroy Jeffers, introduces us to late tire machétt master “Professor” Alfred Avril who taught his fighting technique, often guarded in Haiti, to a select few.
“I don’t use this gift to kill people, but I have it,” Avril reveals in the film. “So if you attack me…Understand? You’ll be in a bad way. If you are cut, the blood will flow.”
The short, boasting lush cinematography, paints a picture of Avril who instructs on the practical and spiritual nature of the machete, especially valuable for Haitian farmers like himself, according to the press release. Through his efforts to provide for and educate all eleven of his children, Avril demonstrates his allegiance to Haiti. His sons Roland and Jean-Paul, both accomplished machete martial artists, carry forth into the future the memory of Avril and Haiti’s victorious past.
“They are the one’s who will see if things change,” Avril says chillingly. “[My sons] are the ones who will see if things get better.”
A hit on the 2014 international film festival circuit, including Sundance and Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), the Jonathan David Kane-directed and edited intimate portrait is now streaming ahead of Third Horizon’s inaugural Caribbean Film Festival.
A passion project of Jeffers, and organized by a collective of Miami and Brooklyn-based Caribbean creatives, the film festival spotlights eight features and nine short films.. If you’re in Miami, be sure to check it out, running from Sept. 29 until Oct. 2.
And, of course, view Papa Machete at the top.