The high-energy documentary DON’T BE NICE, chronicles the upstart Bowery Slam Poetry Team, made up of five African-American, Afro-Hispanic and queer poets in their 20s, preparing for the national championships. Coach Lauren Whitehead pushes them past personal boundaries to write from a painfully honest place with the credo “Don’t Be Nice.” She explains that to “be nice” is to stay on the surface of things, is to perpetuate the status quo, and is, for black people, to be what White culture demands. Her team of poets breaks down, breaks through, and ultimately writes their masterpiece—a celebration of black joy. Timely and difficult, their spoken word slays—but will their soul-searching pieces about police violence and the whitewashing of Black culture be able to compete against choreographed crowd-pleasers for the national title? Will opting to make a statement instead of a show spell their defeat? An emotional and inspiring film that gives insightful commentary on race, gender, identity and sexual politics in America today, DON’T BE NICE is both an exciting competition film and a deep dive into the wildly-popular Slam Poetry subculture, that proves once and for all that winning hearts and minds is the ultimate prize. Producer Nikhil Melnechuk joins us to talk about the phenomenally talented group of poets / writers / advocates that make up the Bowery Team and these from the heart, high-wire performances chronicled in this emotionally charged documentary.
“[T]he poets slam truth to power and demand audiences to wake up…this film will take you to places you never expected.” – Pat Mullen, POV Magazine
“[F]ull of ideas, riffs on current events and so much tension you’ll occasionally be holding your breath.” – Norman Wilner, NOW Toronto, ***** Top Ten Film of the Year
“Captures the revitalization of the artist in a world filled with doom, which makes it remarkably resonant.” – Candice Frederick, The Wrap
“Don’t Be Nice is as entertaining as it is revelatory, an important film for the times.” – Sean Boelman, Popaxiom
“This is Shakespeare on steroids, a poetic banquet of color, action, rhythm and sound that transcends expectations.” – Bev Questad, It’s Just Movies