Young poets of color confront systemic racism, police violence, sexuality and gender in timely, powerful film
Five young slam poets of color take on some of the most urgent issues of today in the dynamic documentary Don't Be Nice, coming to DVD July 14 and to EST/VOD on July 21.
Pre-orders are now being accepted for the film directed by Max Powers and produced by Nikhil Melnechuk and Cora Atkinson.
The documentary follows members of New York's Bowery Poetry Club as they compete in the National Poetry Slam, an event that has been held annually since 1990. Under the tutelage of coaches Lauren Whitehead and Jon Sands, the group of African-American, Afro-Hispanic and queer writers transforms their experiences into performance pieces. Joys, traumas, the struggle to survive in a society plagued by system racism and police violence against people of color, are all reflected in their work.
The living experience is an archive and we can access it depending on how courageous we are.
The documentary was filmed well before the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but it is haunted by the deaths of other African-American men at the hands of police, including Philando Castile and Freddie Gray.
"Last night I went to this party," poet Joël François recites in one piece, "and here I am in this room, all these black people, and it is our music, our celebration, there's so much beauty and so much joy and so much to live for. But also the double consciousness of understanding that outside of these walls there is a world that is trying to choke that life out of us. And I can die in circumstances that I've already played out in my head over and over and over."
Nonfictionfilm.com is pleased to exclusively premiere a clip from the documentary. Continue reading below for more on the film.
Don't Be Nice won the Socially Relevant Documentary Award earlier this year at Film Threat's Award This! festival. It won Best Documentary at the 2019 Vail Film Festival, along with prizes at the Macon Film Festival, Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival, and Atlanta DocuFest.
The documentary boasts compelling characters -- poets Ashley August, Timothy DuWhite, Sean "MEGA" DesVignes, Noel Quiñones and the aforementioned Joël François -- and some remarkable slam poetry performances. In one of them, "Google Black," four members of the Bowery group champion the achievements of Black artists, demanding that they be valued in their own right and not as some sort of "less than" niche within white-dominated culture. Don't Be Nice also features exceptional photography by Peter Eliot Buntaine and music by Khari Mateen.
The film will be available on the following digital platforms July 21:
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.