The award-winning documentary DON’T BE NICE directed by Max Powers 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?
DON’T BE NICE will open at IFC Center in New York on September 20, and at Laemmle Glendale in Los Angeles on September 27. Other cities will follow.
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.
DON’T BE NICE is a Nikhil Melnechuk Production from Radio Drama Network, a not-for-profit supporting the spoken word. Proceeds will go directly to fund spoken word projects.