Updated: Mar 18, 2019
"The Metal Islands" documentary premieres in Puerto Rico on Oct. 25th at the C3TEC (Centro Criollo de Ciencia y Tecnología del Caribe) in the town of Caguas. Doors will open at 6pm and the first 170 visitors will be able to watch the documentary on the big screen. The event is open to the public and free of charge. The documentary will be available later for free in December on their facebook page and it includes a compilation CD with various genres of metal from around the Caribbean.
I had the honor of meeting Dr. Nelson when he showed his "The Distorted Island" documentary in Helsinki during the 2015 Modern Heavy Metal Academic Conference. I also had the honor of being personally escorted around San Juan, Puerto Rico by him back in April/May 2016 as he took me to see some significant local metal locations. So check out my quick interview with him below about this upcoming film! This is not a film to be missed!
1. So you and your team have already created the amazing documentary called
"The Distorted Island" which is about the Puerto Rican underground metal scene.
What prompted you to do this hard work all over again and make "The Metal
Thanks Emily. Coming from a fellow filmmaker your assessment of our initial work is
greatly appreciated, as you know firsthand the hard work that goes into the process. Our
engagement in documentary film was mostly accidental. We were doing our study with
Puerto Rico’s metals scene using traditional research techniques (interviews,
questionnaires, etc) but the scene asked us to leave them a product that could be more
useful to them in documenting their history. That is how the idea for the documentary
started. It has turned into a great way of giving back to the scene what they in turn have
given to us as a research team. Interestingly, our documentary film has been a better
outlet for our research than some of the academic papers we have published. As a scholar
you want the work to be discussed, and this has been a great way of fostering that
While completing the “Distorted Island” film I was working on another health related
project in the Dominican Republic. My time there allowed me to get to know some of
the key players in the scene and I was truly amazed with the amount of challenges they
faced there while battling the media and its attacks on metal music. That gave me the
initial idea to expand our project and cover more countries in the region. From there, it
was logical to examine the scene in Cuba, which is simply amazing. I can’t wait for
people to see these scenes and have a discussion about how their context has influenced
them and vice versa.
2. Which islands are included in the documentary?
This time around we have focused on the Spanish speaking Caribbean, specifically Cuba,
Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. There are metal bands in several other countries in
the region, but our resources are limited and influence how wide we can cast the net. We
hope that with this film people will be interested in continuing to examine other countries
in the region.
3. What was the most interesting thing/person/band you discovered while making the
We had a chance to meet many interesting people while traveling the islands. A
significant amount of time goes into making these films and a lot of it has to do with
hanging out. Scholars like Esther Clinton and Jeremy Wallach have written about the
importance of hanging out for metal fans, and we adopt that strategy in our film making
process. Therefore you meet a lot of people that have awesome stories, but don’t make it
into the film due to time constraints.
My favorite hanging out story was the chance to meet María Gattorno in Cuba. She was
the director for the “Patio de María”, which was a cultural house where the scene got its start. She currently runs the “Cuban Rock Agency”. The story of metal in Cuba owes a lot to María and her vision. In the documentary you will be able to get to know her story and how she and her team have been pivotal in Cuba’s metal scene. It is not an exaggeration to say that she is the mother of the metal movement in the country. Meeting her was something special.
4. The dvd is free and comes with a compilation cd of local bands correct? How did
you choose the bands that are on the cd?
Yes, we have always made an effort to give this data back to the community free of
charge. It is a challenge, but we feel it is the least we can do when they share their stories
with us. The package will include the DVD with subtitles and two CDs with music from
the three countries. The compilation was developed by Rafael Bracero from the “Puerto
Rico Metal Alliance”.
5. What was the biggest hurdle in making the film?
This film is all about context. We decided early in the process that we did not want to
focus on the history of particular bands. The central themes here are history, culture and
politics. We examine how they shape the metal scenes in each country and use specific
bands to evidence that process. In the end it is a very different film than our previous
one, because we wanted to focus even more on how these scenes both reflect their
context and are shaped by it.
As you know, it can be challenging to document the context of the scenes because
sometimes people are skeptical of what you are doing and how you will portray it on
film. So we faced issues that ranged from communal mistrust to confiscation of our recording equipment…but in the end it made the experience worthwhile and life changing. We are not the same research team that started this project. I feel we have grown a lot as individuals and researchers. I think this is our best work on film to date. We hope viewers like this contextual approach because we had a great time getting this documentary into shape.