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Slam (1998)

Cast: Saul Williams, Saul Williams, Sonja Sohn, more...
Director: Marc Levin, Marc Levin
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Studio: Lions Gate
Genre: Drama, Independent, Prison
Running Time: 103 min.
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
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Filmmaker Marc Levin, known for his documentaries exploring prison life, drug addiction, and street gangs, won the 1998 Sundance Film Festival grand jury prize when he made his feature dramatic directorial debut with this downbeat prison drama about a black poet jailed on minor drug charges. At "Dodge City," a Washington, D.C., housing project, streetwise Ray Joshua (Saul Williams), a marijuana dealer who writes poetry, sees his drug connection gunned down, winds up busted as a murder suspect, and is also charged with possession. Incarcerated in a tough D.C. jail, Ray is caught between two rival gangs, Thug Life and the Union, when both compete for his membership, and he becomes friends with the Union's leader, Hopha (Vibe columnist Bonz Malone), and Lauren (Sonja Sohn), a volunteer who runs the prison's creative writing workshop. Prison yard fights between the rival gangs prompt a poem of such passion that Hopha decides to bring his connections into play to arrange for Ray's bail. Back in Dodge City, Ray learns Big Mike was blinded yet is still alive, and he joins Lauren in a poetry session. Real-life poets Williams and Sohn wrote their own material. This film was produced by Levin, New York nightclub owner Henri Kessler, and Prison Life magazine founder Richard Stratton, who spent eight years in prison on marijuana charges. Stratton encountered Williams during a 1996 poetry reading at New York's Nuyorican Poets Cafe. ~ Bhob Stewart, All Movie Guide

You might also enjoy:
Gladiator Days: Anatomy of a Prison Murder
Director Marc Levin made this disturbing documentary for HBO

The Source
Fun and insightful portrait of the three Beat poets who started it all

GreenCine Member Reviews

great performances by alexjb May 10, 2006 - 10:31 PM PDT
i was really impressed by this film - the theme it's exploring is pretty simple- a young, intelligent, articulate black man in DC unexpectedly lands in prison and is confronted with some harsh realities.

what makes this film rock is two things: there's some great spoken word, which is cool to watch and listen to- a couple of impromptu bits early on with one incredible rapid-fire series towards the end that just blew my mind.

but what rocks this film even harder is the acting/directing. it takes a little while, but the major climax scene is an absolutely phenomenal gut-wrenching, amazing performance by the two leads. their characters break the movie stereotypes for black gang-banging drug dealing project dwellers. the director doesn't bother with the usual "diamond in the rough" backstory- the character's depth is revealed in their actions, their power is in their *real-ness*, their complexity.

the camera and directing tap into a little improv and verite style sometimes, which sometimes work and sometimes seem hokey.

overall, a super-must-see !!

Very good by NMalik September 9, 2004 - 4:10 PM PDT
1 out of 2 members found this review helpful
A very good film. Showed the true symbolism of Washington, DC with it's division of class and society. Showing the African American poet walking in front of the majestic white marbled masonic temple shaped Washington Monument moments before he gets arrested and thrown into prison. The film was overall great and a very good social critique of Washington, DC and equality in America.

my new favorite film by JJones1 April 1, 2004 - 6:32 PM PST
2 out of 3 members found this review helpful
Everybody needs to see this film, and especially the director's commentary that goes along with it. The artful writing is reason enough to see the film, but the way it was made is fascinating...beautiful, beautiful film...I haven't stopped talking about it for two weeks!

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.59)
63 Votes
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