I began my evening by going to the Regal Cinemas in Winter Park. I arrived an hour and a half early in order to have some time to sketch before watching films. I walked back to the two theaters that were set aside for the Florida Film Festival. In the hallway student volunteers were waiting around between screenings. Their job was to collect tickets and hand out ballots so the audience could rate the films. While I sketched, Jeremy Seghers and a friend stopped to say hello. Jeremy told me I HAD to see Louder than a Bomb! He was adamant, and he told me I would love it. With a spirited review like that, I had to see this film. I rushed from the Regal to the Enzian theater.
Mr. Happy Man by local filmmaker Matt Morris was screened first. I met Matt, Emma Kruch and Betsy Dye in the theater lobby. Matt wanted to get in early to get a seat for his screening. The volunteers turned him away offering no VIP treatment. This offered me the chance to meet him and shake his hand. He complained that the shoe laces on his sneakers were too long. Betsy dug into her bag and pulled out a crochet needle. She kneeled down and shoved the needle under the crossed laces and then she pulled the looped ends of the knot down underneath. It was a sudden inspired solution that very well could cause a national fashion trend. Mr Happy Man was about an inspiring character, named Johnny Barnes in Bermuda, who stood at a busy intersection each morning shouting out his love and blowing kisses to everyone who drove by. People came to depend on him and were reassured by his constant presence. A sculptor did a life sized bronze statue of him to commemorate his message of love. Here was a man with a simple message we all can learn from. Life is beautiful, don't waste it being upset or stressed. Let people know you love them.
Louder than a bomb was a documentary about high school students who compete in a spoken word competition. The film followed four students from two different high schools as they prepared for the competition. Steinmetz high was located in an underprivileged section of Chicago. In their neighborhood there were few opportunities. The first year they competed in the slam, they won. They hoped to repeat that performance. Oak Park high school was in the quiet suburbs, a privileged school in comparison.
What made the film so vibrant and vital was the creative spirit and drive of the students. Nova Venerable, a young Indian girl had a father who was a substance abuser. She basically had to raise her little brother since her mom had to work multiple jobs to keep the kids away from the father. Nova had not spoken to her father in years yet her poetry about him was filled with both anger and love. She started high school angry, often fighting with other students. She said, "My life seemed to fit once I started writing." Her brother, Cody, had special needs, with a form of autism. Her poem about him was filled with the purest love and yet she feared he might forget her when she went away to college. Her poetry was so raw and honest that it would silence the audience.
Adam Gottlieb felt he had grown up privileged since his parents supported him allowing him to pursue his dream. A poem he wrote about the simple act of writing sparked with life. Every line flowed forth, a constant stream of expression, the words piling up in the rapid need to be expressed. The poem poured out of him with such force that he was short of breath. Then he paused for the longest time and said, "poet breathe now." The audience breathed with him. The audience on the screen erupted in applause as did the audience in the Enzian theater.
Because of the challenges faced by the students from Steinmetz, I found myself rooting for them. Five judges scored the poetry from one to ten points. High and low scores were removed. The final competition came down to a matter of one tenth of a point. There were tears of joy and sorrow. Nate from Steinmetz stressed that the world is bigger than a poetry slam, that the poets should not be afraid to step beyond the papers edge. All the students were learning to be inspired by people that were different than them. They were becoming true students of life. Louder than a Bomb explored the pure joy of students striving for creative expression. They left their hearts on the stage and that is inspiring, a gift to anyone who would listen! The movie audience stood and applauded. I wanted to jump and shout ready to wrestle my own need for creative expression. You need to see this film!