I’ve been itching to write about this film for a long time, having first watched an advance copy whilst at the BBC. This film won’t be out for a while in the UK (I presume) since it’s still making the rounds in the US but hopefully it will get to our screens as soon as possible because I just love it.
The film I’m so much in adoration of is a documentary, filmed in 2008, following the lives of four high school teams from Chicago who are preparing to take part in an annual youth slam poetry contest (of which the film takes its name) ‘Louder Than A Bomb’ (LTAB).
When I first looked at the DVD I was pretty concerned it was going to be a sugary sweet American docu-drama with an overload of sob stories and cheesy, feel-good clichés. I mean, slam-poetry? For teenagers? Really? How, I asked myself, were these filmmakers going to turn this story into anything more than an angst-ridden journey of attempted self-expression?
Well, it turns out they found a way. They managed to pick out four teams of fantastically creative, charismatic, passionate and genuinely talented kids whose stories were not only emotionally engaging, but downright inspiring.
Many of the kids the filmmakers followed had difficult lives, one particularly feisty girl named Nova uses her poetry to vent her feelings about her abusive father, her disabled brother and her mother who worked two jobs to make sure the family were provided for.
Nate has come from a home where both his parents were drug addicts whilst he was growing up, but his involvement in LTAB has kept him on the straight and narrow, fostering in him a love for poetry, rap and rhyme.
Then there’s the kids from Steinmetz, an inner city school with a tough reputation, who came from obscurity to win the 2007 LTAB contest with their raw, honest reflections on high-school life and have returned to defend their title.
The odd-one out is Adam, a Jewish kid from a middle class family, whose talent and creativity has been actively fostered from a young age. Like the others, he is deeply committed to his art, but he is made unique by his particular brand of enthusiasm and infectious positivity that seems to stem from his happy home-life, his strong sense of self, and his obvious intellectual gifts.
This film is unlike any other ‘kiddie-doc’ I’ve seen before, a far cry from those idiotic freak-fests following baby beauty queens or child prodigies and their pushy parents. These kids are competing in Louder Than A Bomb because it offers them a voice, an identity, and, in their own words, a ‘family’ of which to feel a part.*
*Also, you’ll all be pleased to note that Louder Than A Bomb does not have a hint of that heinous Glee club about it. Seriously, I curse everything about that show and it’s bunch of plastic, satanist, singing stereotypes.
In all, I must admit this film does have some saccharine moments, but by the time they came around I was so drawn into the story that I couldn’t give a damn. Please watch the clips, and if you can watch the full film in the future, please do because Louder Than A Bomb is a most unexpected success that deserves to be seen by as many people as possible.