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Louder Than A Bomb - Movie Review - 2010

Chicago's Teen Poetry Competition

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Louder Than A Bomb - Movie Review - 2010

Teen Poets Take The Stage in 'Louder Than A Bomb'

Balcony Releasing
Filmmakers Greg Jacobs and Jon Siskel follow the intense and energetic competition between four Chicago high school poetry teams to win top honors at Chicago's annual Louder Than A Bomb teen poetry slam.

Poetry Rules in Chicago

Chicago's annual Louder Than A Bomb poetry slam brings talented high school students together to perform in competition for top honors. Working in teams, supported by faculty and classmates, the teens hone their rhyming skills and styles until they are nothing less than terrific.

Filmmakers Greg Jacobs and Jon Siskel (he's Gene Siskel's nephew) follow four strongly competitive teams from very different high schools representing inner city and suburban neighborhoods. These teens are exploding with talent. Chicago is clearly into their poetry. That's all good news.

Of course, only one team can win the competition. All are hopeful, dedicated and filled with competitive spirit. But what's especially triumphant about the competition is that the kids all respect and support each other. Word. They admire each other's talent. There's no cutthroat emotional or physical slashing.

Outstanding among the group of kids who are featured as the film's lead characters are the daring and deep Adam Gottlieb, a blaze of verse representing Northside College Prep, and Oak Park/River Forest High School's passionate Nova Venerable, whose bravely personal poems are about her handicapped brother and familial relationships. Bravo to both. And, to all the others, too.

The film follows the kids home, so we see that their lives haven't been wrapped in ditties. Many of them have hard knocks stories to tell. But their angst and grief is honestly spent -- along with their joy -- in outbursts of verse. All the more reason to applaud them, their teams and their teachers. And the city's support of the slam.

Straight Up Storytelling

Structurally, the documentary follows the formula used by competition movies -- sports or spelling bee. We meet the characters, see them train, learn enough about their personal lives to make us care deeply. We find ourselves rooting for our favorite. Rooting strongly, in fact.

The filmmakers let the story tell itself, and that's the right choice. Their use of graphics and other cinematic manipulations is minimal. The story and characters are so compelling that they don't have to embellish. They need to capture important moments that forward the plot and edit effectively. And they've done that flawlessly.

After you see how much the poetry, teamwork and camaraderie mean to these kids, the competition -- a slam to rival all others -- is the film's rousing culmination. The kids' talent and commitment are so impressive and inspiring, you really want them all to win -- if not this, then next year.

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Film Details:

  • Louder Than A Bomb
  • Directors: Greg Jacobs and Jon Siskel
  • Theatrical Release Date: May 18, 2011 (limited)
  • Running Time: 99 mins.
  • Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
  • Country: Chicago, USA
  • Language: English
  • Distribution: Balcony Releasing
  • Trailer

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