Why San Juan? Why plena? Why in the heck are you attempting to make a movie about it? Well, first, my passion is music and dance but what mostly drives that passion, is what these mediums do to people. I love people moving, lost in a moment, listening to a sound that makes them feel like they are superhuman. So it makes sense that I am naturally attracted to music forms that are irreverent, rebellious, and invoke social commentary. Plena does all of these.
Plena music is a forefather of salsa but more importantly it is percussive music that forms around a narrative song structure. Musicians will comment on everyday life, social concerns and speak against the status quo. Rhythms are played on small hand held drums that are portable and lighweight. Therefore, it is perfect for challenging mainstream, commercial ideas of music, which is where we get to the movie part.
During the month of January, San Juan holds Las fiestas de la Calle de San Sebastian. Plena musicians are a sort of Master of Ceremonies that invoke the street festival spirit as they urge the crowd to dance, play, sing and join with them until the line between musician and audience member becomes blurred.
In the last ten years, beer companies have come down to San Juan to sponsor commercial music acts and sell products. While they have been moderately successful, the street festivals have exponentially increased every year to a feverish pitch. Despite what the advertising team of Heineken corporation wants anyone to believe, people know what they want, why they want it, and how to express it. Especially when it comes to their culture, and their expressive lives.
I will be traveling to San Juan from December 28th-January 17th to film these festivals and interview musicians. I need to raise funds for my travels, and also for future production costs. I hope to complete the film by May, and provide informal showings throughout the DC area. Eventually, I will be entering the movie into some film festivals, and find a distributor.
But even more important, I want to tell this story. A story of a different kind of Christmas season that has nothing to do with a mall, or fruit cake, or buying things that you don't need.
Will you help me tell this story?