Louder than a Bomb, directed by Jon Siskel and Greg Jacobs

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Louder than a Bomb Directed by Greg Jacobs and Jon Siskel, ASIN: B006UTDG42

Plot Summary: I’d like to feature two locally made movies in this blog that I think have appeal for teens, though are quite different than what one might expect. The first is “Louder than a Bomb,” about the largest teen poetry slam in the country of the same name. The movie follows four schools competing in the slam, and four students on each of those teams. Each student comes from a different neighborhood and a different background, but each share a love of poetry and all get to know each other through this slam. The movie chronicles the journeys of each group as they prepare for the slam, and leads the viewer through the slam, through epic, beautiful poems, triumphs and disappointments.

Critical Evaluation: As a lover of slam poetry and with a vested interest in Chicago, I may be biased when I say how much I really enjoyed this film. The strongest element of this movie is the character development. The poetry may have been quite good, but it is more of a vehicle for understanding each of the teens portrayed. The movie begins and ends with our characters, seeing where they started out, and where they are headed afterwards. Interspersed with footage of teens practicing and ultimately performing are interviews with the teens, with their parents, with the poetry coaches. Everything comes together, including the poetry they recite, to give us a better picture of who each of these teens are.

Yet the movie also demonstrates rising action and for me, suspense as teens get closer to the slam and then perform and witness their scores. The energy at the competition is palpable, and I felt the gamut of emotions while watching: happy, sad, angry, nervous, and eventually some sense of relief to know the conclusion. We don’t quite get the end we may have expected, but there are still joyful moments and recognition for each of the poets featured.  In my mind, it would be hard to say what the movie is missing, and hard to make it any better without making it longer. I could have wished for more of the poetry performances, but quite truthfully, there was a delicate balance to each element. There was enough development of backstory of both the slam and the teens through interviews and views of their day to day life. There was quite a bit of poetry throughout the movie.

Since this was a documentary featuring teens, it occurs to me to think about the effect the movie might have had on them. I think that it really delved into the teens lives, some more than others, but always to a healthy level. I’d like to think that teens and parents felt comfortable with everything that was featured in the movie, because it did end up portraying the teens in a very positive light. And it allowed each to self-reflect on their poetry and on their lives, in a way they might not have done otherwise. In this way, I can hope their lives will be better for participating in the movie. And I would say that a teen who watches this movie will be better because of it, as it shows the amazing potential a teen has to achieve and produce beautiful works of art. It should give them hope to see how many adults appreciate and support their artistic endeavors or whatever hobby they choose to pursue.

Reader’s Annotation: Poetry is not just confined to your textbooks: it can be a rap, a story of life as an inner city teen, a way to connect to others and express yourself. Experience four teens in Chicago as they prepare and compete in the country’s largest poetry slam in this electric and inspiring movie.

Information about the author: Siskel/Jacobs Productions is a Chicago based film company founded in 2005. They first produced a History Channel program called “102 Minutes that Changed America” about the attacks on 9/11. They are currently at work on episodes for National Geographic Channel’s “Witness” series, that focuses on disasters around the world, from Hurricane Katrina to Japan’s disaster as a result of a tidal wave.

Greg Jacobs served as VP/Chief Creative Officer at Towers Productions, where he oversaw the content of more than two hundred documentaries on five different networks. He graduated from Yale University and got a master’s degree in history from Ohio State University. Jon Siskel created a variety of shows for various networks. He now serves on the board of directors of Free Spirit Media, a youth media organization out of Chicago.

Genre: Nonfiction movie

Curriculum ties, if any: This would be a fantastic movie to show in a class during a poetry unit, leading into the teens writing their own poetry.

Booktalking Ideas: To encourage teens to watch this movie I would highlight the alternative format of poetry, that is more similar to rapping. I might also ask teens if any of them have written fiction or poetry before. Then I would ask them if any of them have performed their works before, which would lead into describing what teens do in this movie.

Reading Level/Interest Age:  The teens featured in this movie were all seniors in high school at the time of filming. I think this has broader appeal, and that younger and older viewers can also appreciate it. It seems best suited to high school students partly because it tells their story, but also because they will best be able to relate to the teens in the movie and understand where they are coming from.

Challenge Issues:

  • Language
  • Mention of violence

Defense Strategy:

  1. First, I would want to be familiar with movie. As I’ve watched this movie, I’d be aware of potential issues that could be challenged. In the case of a book or movie I was not as familiar with, I would want to have access to reviews.
  2. Then I would put together a rationale for why this movie is included in the collection. This rationale would include:
    • Bibliographic Citation of the movie.
    • A description of who the movie is best suited for.
    • A summary of the movie and applicable other information, such as biographical information about the author.
    • My justification for including the movie. This would include how it fits in with the selection policy and library mission statement, and include its educational significance if applicable or the impact it could have on readers.
    • Copy of selection policy and library mission statement at my library.
    • ALA Library Bill of Rights
    • Good and bad reviews of the movie
    • Alternative works a student could read or watch
    • Reconsideration form if patron is not satisfied with rationale
  3. When talking to patron, I would listen to their concerns without getting on the defensive and attempt to sympathize with their concerns. In some cases, all an upset patron needs is to be able to vent and know that someone is listening to them.
  4. If needed, I would send the challenge up the chain of command.

As I’ve mentioned before, I think this is important for teens to have access to. It has descriptions of violence, some coarse language, and difficult situations presented, but it shows teens coming from somewhat difficult backgrounds and still making something positive out of that background. Will slam poetry keep some of these teens from joining gangs or throwing away their education? Maybe!

Why did you include this movie? : I love this movie, and want more people to be exposed to it because I think it has a great story and message. It represents the positive contribution that teens can make to the world, and the potential of art to connect teens across their seemingly different backgrounds.

Reference Page (if directly citing material):

About the filmmakers (2011). Louder than a Bomb website. Retrieved from http://www.louderthanabombfilm.com/about-the-filmmakers.php

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  1. Pingback: Alphabetical List of Titles | let's talk about that book...

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