Louder Than a Bomb
with Houston’s Poet Laureate, Dr. Robin Davidson
Every year, more than six hundred teenagers from over sixty Chicago area schools gather for the world’s largest youth poetry slam, a competition known as “Louder Than a Bomb.” Rather than emphasize individual poets and performances, the competition demands that kids work collaboratively with their peers, presenting, critiquing, and rewriting their pieces. To succeed, teams must create mutual trust and support. For many kids, being a part of such an environment is life changing.
Louder Than a Bomb chronicles the stereotype-confounding stories of four teams as they prepare for and compete in the 2008 event. By turns inspiring and poignant, Louder Than a Bomb explores the tension between two motivations — growing expressively as artists and winning a high-pressure competition. Directors Greg Jacobs and Jon Siskel explore the friendships made and communities built by these remarkably talented teenagers who are obsessed with making words dance. As Variety critic Robert Koehler noted admiringly, “Understated is how the teen poetry slam brings the city’s typically segregated neighborhoods together, as the elevation of language to the level of art serves as a unifying force.”
The film draws rich and illuminating portraits of the astonishing young poets. Among the most affecting is team leader Lamar Jorden, whose emotional growth over the course of the film is stunning. As affecting is Nova Venerable, whose autobiographical poetry contains raw and perceptive observations about her difficult father and special needs younger brother, shaping them into beautifully crafted form. Poet Adam Gottlieb’s amazingly generous presence and talent, evidenced in two poems that suggest a new Allen Ginsberg is in the wings, will leave an unforgettable impression.
Louder Than a Bomb premiered in March 2010 and won Audience Awards at the Cleveland International Film Festival and the Woods Hole Film Festival, where it also received the Jury Prize for Best Documentary .
Directed by Greg Jacobs and Jon Siskel
Cinematography by Stephen Mazurek
Editing by John Farbrother
Cast: Lamar Jorden, Adam Gottlieb, Novana Venerable