Movie Review: Don’t Be Nice (5 of 5 stars)

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By Christina Nicole

This year Macon Film Festival and Bronze Lens Film Festival brought amazing programming to their audiences via Don’t Be Nice, a documentary about the 2016 Bowery Slam Poetry team from New York.

Don’t Be Nice takes the audience on a unique journey that no one saw coming. In speaking to Nikhil Melnechuk, one of the producers and the director of the Bowery Poetry Club, he mentioned they wanted to make a documentary of the slam team’s journey to nationals, but they didn’t know who was going to be on the team. The audience at the slam votes, and the winners end up on the team. The five team members: Ashley, Mega, Noel, Joel and Tim com together to push themselves to be the best poets and performers they can over the 10 weeks leading to the 2016 National Poetry Slam Competition, which was held in Atlanta, GA.

The filmmakers follow the five poets, but without making a reality show, which is refreshing.  Documentary focuses on the work. Lauren, one of the team’s coaches, is constantly telling the poets that they have to do the work. The poems have to be specific, and universal; they should strike an emotional cord with the audience and author.

The team explores many hot button topics in their poems, from identity, to rape and child molestation, racism and police brutality, to joy.  At one point Lauren says, “The living experience is an archive and we can access it, if we’re bold and brave enough to go there.” In Don’t Be Nice, there are definitely moments that make you smile and laugh, juxtaposed with moments that make you think and/or cry.

Throughout the film, we watch the poets expose themselves raw with true vulnerability, strength and grace. The film is an open and honest story of triumph and failure that writers and readers, and any other member of the audience can relate to.  I give the award wining documentary 5 of 5 stars, a standing ovation, a 10.0, and a whole lot of snaps.  If provided the opportunity, see the film.

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