Harlem rapper Immortal Technique is unveiling a new film that details his fascinating, transformative journey over the past 10-plus years. The movie, The (R)evolution of Immortal Technique, is premiering tonight at the Harlem Film Festival, blocks away from where Technique himself grew up.
The film is an eye-opening look at the Afro-Peruvian MC's travels and transformations, from Peruvian immigrant to Harlem convict to battle rapper to worldwide political figure. Tech was born in a military hospital in Lima, and then moved to Harlem, New York to flee ongoing civil conflict. A series of arrests and other legal troubles as a teen culminated in a year-long incarceration in a Pennsylvania prison for assault-related charges. After honing his skills behind bars, he hit the New York underground battle scene with a vengeance, and then independently released a series of fiery, politically charged albums that have gained him critical acclaim and thousands of devoted followers over the past 10 years.
"Originally we had tons of random footage from being on the road, and we realized we had a progression of time in the footage," Tech says, chilling backstage at the New York stop of the Rock the Bells tour, where he later headlined the "Paid Dues" stage in front of hundreds of amped-up devotees. "Here’s a picture of a young man who's fresh out of prison trying to change his life in some way, shape or form. Literally two weeks after I got out of prison I was at an event battling onstage and trying to make sense of some of the music I had written while incarcerated."
His music's dissertation-like take on racism, poverty and imperialism, his open calls for revolution and his strong support for international causes have gained him an audience with Cornel West and Chuck D, both of whom appear in the film, as well as Ice-T, DJ Green Lantern, Woody Harrelson and other luminaries.
Meanwhile, his advocacy for oppressed people worldwide has taken him around the world. The film shows Technique performing and meeting with activists in North Africa, South America, Haiti and Afghanistan, where he linked with non-profit Omeid International to start an orphanage in Kabul. "In one scene, I’m in Bin Laden’s old hideout," Tech says. "Literally, you see, right across the pond, this is the area where him and his peoples camped out."
Technique's travels not only show how far he's come in his career, but also allow him to shed light on colonialism, history and capitalism throughout the movie. "When I'm in Haiti, you examine the Haitian revolution," he says. "There's no such thing as the Latin revolution without the Haitian revoltution. They depleted all the Spanish forces, because when Napoleon was [kicked out of Haiti], he invaded Spain. There’s Haitian revolutionary Toussaint L'Ouverture, who lent guns and munitions to Bolivar."
But above all, the film's global reach puts our problems here at home in perspective. "I wish people could see those camps [in Haiti] where people are living five families to a room that’s this big," Tech says. "We forget part of that. We forget that there are 100 million people who wake up wishing that they had our problems."
The (R)evolution of Immortal Technique premieres tonight, September 7, at the Schomburg Center in Harlem. For more information, go to www.harlemfilmfestival.com.
(Photo: Terrence Jennings/Picturegroup)