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Director Marc Levin
Marc Levin, Sonja Sohn, Bonz Malone, Richard Stratton, Saul Williams
Stars Saul Williams, Sonja Sohn, Bonz Malone, Beau Sia
Certificate 15
Running time 1 hour 39 mins
Made US, 1997

Read The Wolf's review of "Slam"

FOR those who have ever wondered if art can effect social change, Slam comes down emphatically on the affirmative side. Cinema-verite is used to follow Raymond Joshua (U.S. poet Saul Williams) through his rounds, from the rough neighbourhoods of Washington D.C. to jail on a drugs charge where he realizes the potential of his poetic talent.

What was previously a personal pasttime becomes an urgent mode of communicating with others when Ray attempts to sidestep prisoner violence with a virtuouso performance in the prison recreation yard. Real prisoners were used for the jail scenes in which anger and bitterness are palpable. Jail marks the fork in the road for Ray, as he must decide what to do with his life when he is released on bail. Lauren (U.S. poet Sonja Sohn), having fought the odds herself, encourages him to pursue his talent for positive change, while the reaction from his neighbourhood friends is mixed.

This film is driven by a fantastic soundtrack, and dynamic camera work that avoids being too obtrusive. Williams and Sohn give incredibly raw poetry performances and much of the dialogue has an improvisational feel. Without being naive, the film is a powerful illustration of people refusing to be beaten by the system, and fighting back against poverty and racism. This isn't a fairytale where suddenly everything is made alright, but neither is it a nightmare: if the individual hasn't given up, then there's hope for the community. This message is supported by the independent poetry careers of Williams and Sohn, who are using their talent to shake things up.


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