Rudie Reviews To Be Heard [DOC NYC Film Festival 2010]

One of the things that makes us human is the idea of wanting to be heard. To make ourselves understood to others, to communicate and to make ourselves clear. It’s frustrating to make yourself understood if you don’t have the proper tools to do so, namely language. Not having the ability to use language as your ally can lead one to simply give up on being understood. To Be Heard is a documentary uses the power of language, words and poetry over the ones who can actually use it.

The film follows Karina, Pearl and Anthony: three inner city high school students from the Bronx in New York City and how they use poetry to have a better life. Their hopes and dreams are involve poetry and their struggles are consistently striving to this end. They called themselves ‘The Tripod’, all three support and nurture each other to make sure they all graduate from high school on time and to get into college through poetry. To many, this sounds like a simple enough task but to others, this dream is as far away as making a million dollars.

They are part of a radical poetry workshop called Power Writing that gives high schools the understanding of words and the power of poetry. Moreover, giving the student proper and well-guided mentorship that inside and outside of school. Karina, Pearl and Anthony’s success are hinged on these teacher’s guidance.

What is displayed in the films 84 minute running time is simply astounding. Structured in a way to give each subject their screen time and showing them as a unit. From Karina parental abuse to Pearl’s image issues, to the most heartbreaking, Anthony’s struggle with drugs and the law. These three students display so much talent and a great understanding of the written word that would put most street poets to shame. When the storylines of these students come together something wonderful is displayed on screen. What Hoop Dreams was to high school basketball, To Be Heard is to slam poetry. Both with the same ambition, pathos and sobering reality of its subjects.

The level of drama and twist and turns in life are displayed so well and is a tribute to the filmmakers, Roland Legiardi-Laura, Edwin Martinez, Deborah Shaffer and Amy Sulton. Collectively, much like the high school subjects, they have brought to the screen a revelation of drama, suspense and a heartwarming narrative. One part social commentary on the New York City education system and one part underdog film, To Be Heard is a must see from this year’s DOC NYC Documentary Film Festival. Both emotionally and intellectually stimulating, To Be Heard is powerful and exciting.

Grade: B+

Screenings:

Saturday November 6th, 7PM @ the NYU Kimmel Center

Monday November 8th, 5:30PM @ the IFC Center