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All Roads Lead To The Fire Escape

Shot in one day on a fire escape and rooftop in East Harlem, New York City, ‘All Roads Lead To The Fire Escape’, is a laid back documentary on original Latin Insomniac Motorcycle Club (Without Motorcycles) member Jesus Papoleto Melendez. The members of The Latin Insomniacs Motorcycle Club (Without Motorcycles) are more commonly known as being a part of the Nuyorican Poets movement, an artistic and intellectual movement that began in the late sixties and early seventies in New York City, that was a founding influence on the advent of both Salsa and Hiphop. The “Nuyorican” movement centered around Puerto Ricans in New York City who found that they were too Puerto Rican to be Americans and too American to be Puerto Rican. 

Jesus Papoleto Melendez fascination with language and the word took hold of him as a child, on the very fire escape where most of the film takes place. That fascination would led to Joseph Papp's Public Theatre producing Papoleto’s play “The Junkies Stole The Clock” in 1974 as the first production under the Nuyorican Playwright’s Unit. His poetry, had a huge influence on both Hiphop and the "Spoken Word" movement. He has unofficially been called the poet laureate of El Barrio. Papoleto’s love for language and the word has defined him and shaped his world view. In a strange twist of fate his poetic journey would take him from that fire escape in El Barrio, to the Bronx, then to Mexico and California before bringing him back to El Barrio, to the very same apartment he grew up in as a child. It’s the return to this fire escape, where he first fell in love with the word and all it’s poetic potential, that the film gets its title ALL ROADS LEAD TO THE FIRE ESCAPE.

Coming full circle on that fire escape Papoleto talks with humor, wit, intelligence, rage and compassion about his adventures as a poet and connects those adventures specifically to the history of the Puerto Rican immigrant experience and placing it within the wider context of the American immigrant experience. While Papoleto speaks Harlem based Haitian-American photographer Leslie Jean-Bart snaps photos and the click of the mirror in Leslie’s camera is heard throughout the conversation. Interspersed into this fire escape dialogue are Leslie’s photographs capturing Papoleto’s exuberance as he speaks along with poems that Papoleto recites on the rooftop of the very same building. It’s Papoleto’s poetry that opens up the discussion to include art, science and politics, touching on the films of his favorite film director Jean Cocteau, the surrealists, the dadaists, the Beats, the Black Arts movement, the Young Lords Party and Hiphop. ALL ROADS LEAD TO THE FIRE ESCAPE isn’t just an important documentary on a treasured but under appreciated American playwright and poet but also an important document on the rarely explored artistic way of life of the Nuyorican poets.

  • vagabond
    MACHETERO, Coney Island Dreaming, NO WAY HOME, Sacred And Profane Faceless Jacks
  • vagabond
  • vagabond
    MACHETERO, Coney Island Dreaming, NO WAY HOME, Sacred And Profane Faceless Jacks
  • Jesus Papoleto Melendez
    Key Cast
    The Stock Room, A Wound In Time
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    54 minutes 25 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    February 21, 2017
  • Production Budget:
    10,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - vagabond

Brooklyn born and borough raised, Vagabond graduated from Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & the Arts and dropped out of The School of Visual Arts. He began his career in film early on, working on independent black films such as Spikes Lees "Do The Right Thing", where he quickly learned all aspects of filmmaking and forged his own artistic and ideological aesthetic.

The first film that Vagabond produced was the documentary "RICANSTRUCTING VIEQUES”, that told the story of the US military’s occupational abuse of Vieques, Puerto Rico as a training site, through the use of interviews and live musical performance footage of Nuyorican punk rock band Ricanstruction. It opened to an emotional sold out screening at the first annual NY International Latino Film Festival and opened the Lost Film Festival 4.0 in Philadelphia. The film has gone on to screen across Europe, Australia, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and throughout the US.

vagabond would continue to work with Ricanstruction and help found what would become the Ricanstruction Netwerk, a politically radical artist collective in the vein of the Situationist International. vagabond would go on to create murals, posters, pamphlets, and videos and organize political marches, rallies, vigils, art shows, screenings and protests with the Ricanstruction Netwerk.

His first feature film, “MACHETERO” which he wrote, produced and directed stars Isaach de Bankolé (The Keeper, Ghost Dog, Coffee and Cigarettes, Manderlay) who plays a French journalist who comes to New York to interview a Puerto Rican "terrorist" in prison about his decision to use violence as a means to free his people. Screened in neighborhood/barrio community centers and squats while still in mid-production, the controversial film engendered political discussion and debate within (and outside of) the Puerto Rican Diaspora and has been called one of the most important and insightful underground political films ever made. In June of 2008 “MACHETERO” was a finalist for Best Film at the Hollywood Black Film Festival and in October of 2008 took home the prize for Best First Film at the International Film Festival South Africa. In 2009 “MACHETERO” is on a world tour participating in eight festivals in seven different countries on four different continents. The film has won six awards around the world.

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