Louder than a Bomb

All I have to say about this film is, “Wow.”

Actually, I do have more to say about Louder than a Bomb. I didn’t know what to expect from this documentary – the poetry slam movement erupted in the 90’s, and I wasn’t sure this wouldn’t be a tired retread of that topic. Also, this is an Oprah Winfrey Network film; that, too, made me skeptical. I found myself continuously undertaking a “am I being manipulated” litmus test while watching, because it does tear at your heartstrings in every possible way. However, I have concluded that even the most sap-resistant viewer will be taken in by this film.

This is the story about the journeys of the 2008 Chicago-area high school teams going into the annual Louder than a Bomb competition. Upon further research, I discovered that Chicago is actually the birthplace of the poetry slam – perhaps that is why the movement is still so vibrant there. In the film we meet key players from each team, and learn about their varying degrees of hardships and what it is that brought them to poetry. But thankfully it is the poetry itself that is the most provoking.

Unlike traditional coffee-house open-mike poetry readings, poetry slams feature many approaches to poetry, and much of what’s highlighted here resembles (to my ear) hip-hop. In fact, in my inner dialogue I began to question whether this was actually poetry… which led me to question my perception of poetry generally…see where I’m going with this?

Indeed, poetry slams are not without their critics (as this Wikipedia article points out, Harold Bloom called them “the death of art”). One of the troubling aspects of slams, assigning points to poetry, is demonstrated in the film when the reader of a powerful piece momentarily misspeaks and is docked what turns out to be the difference between winning and losing.

I personally concluded that I don’t care if what we are seeing here is poetry. I want to support a movement that is so positive for teens, emo and gangsta alike. Watch this film and see what you think.