DON’T BE NICE
November 20 only
The upstart Bowery Slam Poetry Team, made up of five African-American, Afro-Hispanic and queer poets in their 20s, prepares for the national championships. Mentored by a demanding coach who encourages them to push past their personal boundaries and write from a place of vulnerability, pain and honesty, the poets break down, break through and compose their best work ever. Timely and difficult, their spoken word slays-but will these soul-searching pieces about police violence and the whitewashing of Black culture be able to compete against choreographed crowd-pleasers for the title? Will opting to make a statement instead of a show spell their defeat? An emotional and inspiring film that gives insightful commentary on race, gender, identity and sexual politics in America today, “Don’t Be Nice” is both an absorbing competition doc and a vital writer’s workshop that proves once and for all that winning hearts and minds is the ultimate prize.
Lauren Whitehead coaches the Bowery Slam Team with the credo “Don’t Be Nice.” She explains that to “be nice” is to stay on the surface of things, is to perpetuate the status quo, and is, for black people, to be what white culture demands. Her team of poets brave their inner demons and buck societal expectations to write truthful poems, and to ultimately celebrate black joy. My goal has been to illuminate these poets’ words with as little obstruction as possible, bringing the revolutionary work they’ve done in expanding Slam Poetry to a wider movie-going audience. Where many succumb to the polarizing simplification of click-bait headlines, these poets do difficult personal work to come to an understanding of their relationship to race and power, and courageously share it.
Directed by Max Powers, 2018. 95 mins. DCP.
FREE OR DISCOUNTED FOR MEMBERS
NOTE: FILMS START RIGHT AT THE LISTED SHOWTIME.
Roxie Theater trailers play during the 30 minutes prior to showtime.