Nationality: United States

The Ayes Have It by Tiana Clark

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Directed by Savanah Leaf, this is the first film from Motionpoems’ Season 8, “Dear Mr. President,” to be released on the web. Tiana Clark‘s poem is included in her collection I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood, which won the 2017 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize and is due out this fall from the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Click through to Vimeo for the full credits.

Where Are The African Gods by Abbey Lincoln

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A powerful poem by Abbey Lincoln becomes even more powerful in this viral video, which filmmaker Rodney Passé calls a “meditative portrait of black masculinity.”

A moving recording of the late writer and renowned jazz singer Abbey Lincoln is captured in this new film from Brooklyn-born director Rodney Passé, who has previously worked with powerhouse music video director Kahlil Joseph. Reading from her own works, Lincoln’s voice sets the tone for a film that explores the African American experience through fathers and their sons.

You can also watch Lincoln reciting the poem, along with “The Man Who Has The Magic,” in this interview on YouTube:

Hat-tip: Cinematic Poems.

Elephant by Elisabet Velasquez

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Brooklyn-based Puerto Rican poet Elisabet Velasquez took the top prize in Button Poetry’s 2017 Video Contest with Elephant, which she calls

a short choreo-film entirely produced by women of color against street harassment. The video is the collective effort of a group of interdisciplinary artists from New York City who came together to highlight the importance of looking at street harassment from a lens of reclamation of power.

We believe that all people who identify as women as well as gender nonconforming individuals who are impacted by street harassment have a right to their bodies and in this video we take our bodies back.

If you or any one you know has been impacted by street harassment in any way we invite you to share.

Peruvian filmmaker Connie Chavez directed the film and Keomi Tarver is the dancer and choreographer, with body art by Alicia C. Cobb.

Elegance/Refusal by Sojourner Ahebee

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A wonderful primer on the personal and political meanings of hair in the Black community by Palo Alto, California-based poet Sojourner Ahebee, directed by Christian Osagiede. I saw an earlier version of this film appear on Vimeo five months ago, and didn’t share it then because the credits indicated that it was a submission to the 2017 Button Video Contest, and I had a hunch it might place. Sure enough, it’s a runner-up! Here’s the description that Ahebee posted then:

This poem, “Elegance/Refusal,” is interested in mapping a brief history of hair in the Black community. The poem’s title is drawn from a Coco Chanel quote in which she says: “Elegance is refusal.” For me, Chanel’s words lit a fire inside of me and pushed me to document/give language to the ways Black women/femmes perform resistance (“refusal”) through fashion/hair; how they use beauty aesthetics to ask the world to see them, and how they create and constantly re-create new visions of themselves for themselves. This is also a poem about intimacy between Black women. Hope you enjoy.

To read more poems from my debut poetry collection, check out my chapbook, “Reporting from the Belly of the Night” at sojournerahebee.com

Kinsugi by Safia Elhillo

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I’ve had some critical things to say over the years about the use of poetry in advertising, but this Under Armour ad does it right. First off, they hire a contemporary poet, Sudanese-American poet Safia Elhillo, rather than re-purposing some out-of-copyright Walt Whitman or whatever, and they give her credit right up front: “words by Safia Elhillo.” (I saw a performance poetry-style ad for Transport for London two years ago that didn’t credit the poet at all.) Second, it actually feels like a real filmpoem: the words and images go together in a fresh and interesting way, suggesting that the poet worked closely with the (uncredited) filmmakers. I’m especially impressed considering how tired and cliched this kind of athlete-triumphing-over-adversity narrative has otherwise become in American television.

Perhaps that’s why the Under Armour advertising people decided to hire poets. This is one of a series of poetry-film ads they’ve produced, each with a tie-in to the Winter Olympics. An article in the Baltimore Sun by Lorraine Mirabella, “Under Armour unveils Lindsey Vonn film ahead of Olympics,” has the whole story:

Under Armour has put out a short film on Lindsey Vonn in its Unlike Any women’s campaign, just days before the start of Winter Games in South Korea, where the world champion skier will compete in her first Olympics since 2010.

The campaign, which celebrates female athletes who shatter expectations, looks at ways in which debilitating injuries and setbacks have served to motivate Vonn. The alpine skier missed the 2014 Olympics because of a serious knee injury. Last year, while training, she broke an arm.

The video is set to a poem by Safia Elhillo, author of last year’s The January Children, who wrote the piece specifically for Vonn. It’s called, “Kintsugi,” the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with powdered gold, silver or platinum.

“This is what I became each wound filled with sunlight to bond my old self to my new,” the poem goes, recited in its debut in the film by the poet.

Under Armour has been working with Elhillo over the past few months on the poem and film, which is a new, remix of Vonn’s original Unlike Any video released last fall.

“It accentuates not just my strengths, but also my weaknesses and my story and coming back from adversity,” Vonn said in a Sun interview in October. “I’m strong because of everything I’ve been through.”

The sports brand launched its Unlike Any campaign in July. Each of five films featured spoken word artists who created poems to fit stories of each of five athletes, Misty Copeland, American Ballet Theater principal ballerina; Alison Desir, founder of Harlem Run Crew; sprinter Natasha Hastings; professional stuntwoman Jessie Graff and Chinese taekwondo champion and actress Zoe Zhang.

Under Armour said the latest Vonn video, coming off her World Cup wins this past weekend, was inspired by the athlete’s “undeniable strength and dedication to her sport…Lindsey is more than ready for gold.”

Bones by Natalie Raymond

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This powerful, incantatory filmpoem stars the author-director, Natalie Raymond, and was shot at the Salton Sea in southern California. The Vimeo description:

An experimental narrative at the intersection of poetry & filmmaking, BONES explores the journey through a selfhood decimated by trauma. Based on poems from the book length manuscript missoula,, which was recently named a semi-finalist for Tarpaulin Sky’s 2017 book prize, BONES is about a daughter’s struggle to come to terms with her separate identity. more info: natalieraymond.com/bones

Directed by: Natalie Raymond
Director of photography: FuJui Freddy Tang
Wardrobe: Sanora Park
Audio & Text: Natalie Raymond

Word: Collected Poetry (Makayla Posley, Trace DePass, Nkosi Nkululeko and Esther Aloba)

Directed by Jamil McGinnis and Pat Heywood, Word: Collected Poetry is an exemplary poetry-film anthology that conveys a real sense of the unique character of a vital, passionate community of poets. Jamil and Pat call it

A collection of spoken word poems brought to life, adapted from the work of four poets living in New York City.

FEATURING:
“Untitled” by Makayla Posley (0:09)
“band-aids & other temporary healings” by Trace DePass (4:01)
“From the Inside” by Nkosi Nkululeko (7:23)
“Rule #1” by Esther Aloba (11:09)

It was produced in association with Urban Word NYC, and grew out of an earlier project for Motionpoems (Things I Carry Into the World, featuring Cynthia Manick), as they explained in an email:

Essentially, the film is a work of collected poems brought to life. The featured poems’ authors are young poets from New York City. We wanted the film to feel as if someone had wandered into a bookstore and began flipping through a book of poems. […] It’s essentially an extension of the Motionpoem we did (but produced independently of them).

We partnered with a nonprofit called Urban Word NYC, who introduced us to the poets. We wanted to dive into the same themes and ideas that their poetry does, so naturally, collaborating closely with the poets was an essential part of the process. We didn’t want to assume anything about their experiences, but rather create a visual space to explore them further. We raised these questions about the school-to-prison pipeline, the problematic side of creative expression, and queerness, amongst others because they did. They gave us that space.

The film premiered online in Booooooom, which noted that “The film’s production was entirely crowdfunded through Kickstarter, raising over $15,000 through nearly 200 donations in 30 days.” Jamil and Pat told them that

Adapting poetry to film was a lot closer to putting together a thematic puzzle than it is building any kind of narrative. All sorts of space for us as filmmakers opened up to explore their language. Juxtaposing images, observing, asking questions rather than giving answers. We wanted a film that was challenging and abstract, but at the same time, presented moments of meditation.

Click through for photos from the shooting of the film as well as for the full, extensive credits.

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