Hot Docs review: Don’t Be Nice

Documentary about members of the Bowery Slam Poetry Team is full of ideas, riffs on current events and so much tension you'll occasionally be holding your breath

DON’T BE NICE (Max Powers, U.S.). 96 minutes. Rating: NNNNN

Don’t Be Nice tracks the efforts of the Bowery Slam Poetry Team over the summer of 2016, as Ashley August, Joel Francois, Noel Quiñones, Timothy DuWhite and Sean MEGADesVignes – a diverse mixture of young New Yorkers – prepare for the slam poetry nationals in Atlanta, coached by veteran performers.

Their facility and ferocity is remarkable, and director Max Powers’s camera comes in close to catch every flash of inspiration and shift in attitude as raw talent is refined into something more precise and pointed.

It’s compelling just to sit and watch these artists trade ideas, riff on current events like the Freddie Gray murder trial and the end of Barack Obama’s presidency and find a creative flow that suits them. Powers brings a few of their pieces to life in electric stylized sequences.

But there’s a tension building underneath the bravado when someone cracks under pressure, you’ll find yourself holding your breath with everyone onscreen.

April 27, 9:15 pm, Isabel Bader April 28, 12:30 pm, Hart House May 4, 3:30 pm, and May 5, 10 am, TIFF 1

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