Monday, 8 June 2020

Movie review: Voices, dir Gina Nemo (2016)

This is a documentary about the healing power of creativity. Writing poetry has helped – and continues to help – the poets featured in this film cope with what life has thrown at them, and given them away to understand their past, understand their feelings, and find community with people who share a need for closure and acceptance.

The film includes footage of a number of poets – seven in all – talking about themselves and about their art, and reciting a poem or two in front of the camera. The credits screen is shown below, but this is not representative of the film, which contains studio segments of to-camera speaking by each of the featured poets, as well as segments shot on location, for example on a suburban street in the US or elsewhere.


The film opens with Michael Ellis, a black man who suffered personal trauma in childhood. Then there’s Gina Nemo (the director), Johnny Olson (a former Marine who is involved with “Mad Swirl” poetry events – the name emblematic of the process, both outlandish and restorative, whereby poetry converts experience into something of beauty – in Dallas, Texas), Mishka Hoosen (a South African poet), Eddie Cousins (a man who is also a musician), Alonzo ‘Zo’ Gross (a black man who, in time, resolved a problem with addiction), and Salvador Murcia (from El Salvador) – each poet present in the film as a message, in their own persons, about the power of words when they are used with intent. 

I was blown away by this very practical film which, like a guide to good living, gives you access to other worlds in a way that is quite unlike anything else that I have sampled on Amazon Prime (where I saw it; I’ve come across nothing like it on Netflix, either). In your living room you’re able to experience first-hand – the editing is excellent – something that normally you can only get at open-mic readings where poets appear, something unique and precious. 

For those who are not fans of poetry, there is still a ton to enjoy due to the link that exists – has always existed – between poetry and music. In fact Cousins, from North Carolina, started out as a musician and got into poetry later on. Gross’ poetry has the feel of music because of his use of the style of spoken word – it’s exactly the same as rap. Murcia also uses rhyme (the love poem of his that closes out his segment is wonderful) as does Ellis.

Anyone who is into poetry will adore this film, which is not long at just on 80 minutes. Reach out and touch with your mind another person’s memories, their aspirations, their sense of justice, their hopes – their very dreams! My hope is that a second instalment will eventuate. 

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