Emily Mody - Don't Be Nice (CUFF.Docs 2018)

Posted on Thursday, November 29, 2018 at 06:00 PM

Don't Be Nice (CUFF.Docs 2018)

Review by Emily Mody x CalgaryMovies.com

Don’t Be Nice is an American documentary directed by Max Powers. This film follows a team of Slam Poets over the summer of 2016 as they work together to compete for the National Championship. As they tackle controversial subject matter and their own personal demons, they each gain a better understanding of whom they are and what they must work to overcome.

I have never encountered Slam Poetry in the way it is presented in this film. There is something so unique and honest in this portrayal. Perhaps there is something in the way that the members of the Bowery Slam Poetry Team would lift each other up and make each other brave. It is captivating to watch the team become a strong support system. It was so engaging to see how such a space could allow for so much healing. In a powerful rendition of “Google Black” the poets demonstrate that winning is not always everything. Sometimes the small victories are even more positive and transformative than any other outcome would have been. My favourite poet on the team is Sean DesVignes. He is somewhat quiet, small, and unassuming but when he starts to perform he becomes larger than life. He has an ability to fill the space and force people to take notice. One can easily see that performing slam poetry is what he is meant to be doing.

Don’t Be Nice is comparable to another documentary entitled, Romeo Is Bleeding. It is directed by Jason Zeldes. It follows a young poet named Donte Clark. He is working on an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet with the hope of inspiring a critical discourse around the violence in his local community. Both films examine the politics around social change by focusing on individuals who emphasize that in their creative work. Both films relay powerful messages about change and growth on a societal level as well as an individual level. Don’t Be Nice takes the viewer on a bit of rollercoaster ride however, with some of its moments instilling intense joy and others deep, heart wrenching despair. I suppose Don’t Be Nice differs substantially from Romeo Is Bleeding in that way. Here, the focus is consistently serious and bleak. Both films examine the journey in the creative process very closely and I enjoyed that immensely. For this, I would highly recommend both films.

I would highly recommend this film to anyone with even an inkling of an interest in slam poetry. I would also recommend this film to anyone with an interest in the creative process. This film is an influential story about change and growth that inspires a creative spark.

Don’t Be Nice is 95 minutes long. This film deals with discussion involving physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. It also deals with discussion involving police brutality, racial injustice, and LGBTQ culture. Don’t Be Nice will be screening as a part of Calgary's Documentary Film Festival (CUFF.Docs 2018) on November 30th at 7pm at The Globe Cinema.

Calgary Showtimes:  Don't Be Nice >


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