“Poet, breathe now…because it’s the last thing you’ll ever do for yourself….” – Adam Gottlieb.
When was the last time a poem brought tears to your eyes? When was the last time you saw a documentary and felt like applauding – frequently – and so did everyone in the audience? When was the last time a bunch of teenagers made you feel good about life?
Louder than a Bomb is a documentary about a high school poetry competition – a slam – that manages to do all three. The Louder than a Bomb slam brings together young poets of every kind of background imaginable from all over the Chicago area for an Olympics style competition.
Yes, scoring poetry is stupid. So they say again and again. “The points are not the point; the point is the poetry,” becomes a mantra for the participants. But their enthusiasm and drive to succeed is contagious.
The young poets are exciting and inspiring. Their poems and their stage presence are breathtaking. And not all surface effect and flash, the depth of the work is stunning. The film takes you on an emotional roller coaster ride as it follows four contestants through practices, performances, and the final slam.
It was Sunday evening, the last night of the Milwaukee Film Festival. We went to the Ridge, a Marcus cinema in New Berlin. There were two film choices. Both sounded appealing. Not knowing anything more than the brief blurb in the program, we picked Louder than a Bomb because we like poetry.
Not knowing that Louder than a Bomb had won awards at film festivals all over the country. Not knowing that a few days later Louder than a Bomb also would be voted best in the Milwaukee Festival. Not knowing that I would laugh and cry and applaud in equal measures throughout the performance. I say performance, although the movie depicted many performances, because it felt more like a performance, like it was happening in real time, than like a documentary movie.
A quick glance at the Louder than a Bomb website shows how unanimous the critics have been in their acclaim of this tour de force. Don’t take my word for it. Nor even the critics. Visit the site and listen to Nate and Adam and Nova and the Steinmenauts recite and perform their incredible works of art. Then find the nearest screening of the film and go see it all.
One of the best features of the Film Festival is the opportunity it provides to learn more about the movies you see. After Louder than a Bomb, the movie, ended we were introduced to Kevin Coval, the poet who started Louder than a Bomb, the teen poetry slam. During the question and answer period someone asked if there was a poetry slam in Milwaukee. Happily, there is!
The next slam is on Oct. 14 at Centennial Hall in the Milwaukee Central Library; at 6 pm. Check it out at Stillwater Collective.
“Poet, breathe now…because there’s a fire inside you that needs oxygen to burn and if you don’t run out of breath you’re gonna run out of time….” – Adam Gottlieb
Thank you, Milwaukee Film.