Top 40% of all time (see others with this rank)

Festival Year

1998 (click here to see all competition films from this year)


Dramatic Competition


Saul Williams, Bonz malone, Sonja Sohn, Beau Sia

Non-Cast Credits

Narc Levin, Henri M. Kessler, Richard Stratton, David Peipers, Saul Williams, Sonja Sohn, Marc Benjamin, Emir Lewis, Paul Miller


Until now, Marc Levin has been known primarily for his award-winning documentaries exploring the worlds of troubled youth, street gangs, prisons, and the juvenile justice system. Here he crosses into drama with a first-rate account of the dilemmas faced by young men similar to those in his previous undertakings. Rarely has the increasingly familiar theme of social and racial oppression been explored with such vitality and impact as in this tale.

Ray Joshua, a talented black poet from the Washington, D.C., projects, is arrested on petty drug charges and thrown into the black hole that is the D.C. jail. There he meets the two people who can redirect his life: a prison gang leader and a beautiful female poet teaching a self- expression class for inmates.

Perhaps it's Levin's past experience that brings such a welcome tone of authenticity and truth to Slam. Or perhaps it's the talent that collaborated with him. His cowriters and coproducers include Richard Stratton (editor and publisher of Prison Life magazine), and Saul Williams and Sonja Sohn, who are also the lead actors and are nothing short of brilliant in this charged and realistic chronicle of a young man's struggle. With a perfectly apt verite style and wonderful dialogue and poetry (including one particularly striking moment when rap becomes a survival strategy), this is a film which gives voice, often gloriously, to those who remain without an opportunity to be heard.


Geoffrey Gilmore (see other films reviewed by the same reviewer)

Film Takes Pace.