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  • Synopsis: Documentary filmmaker Paul Devlin, known for his ESPN2 extreme sports coverage, directs his lens toward another intense competition - the National Poetry Slam. Groups from Rhode Island, Illinois, Austin and New York City use their rapid fire rhythms to out-poeticize each other to the top. Devlin covers their rap, from methods and practice to the final slams.
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Rating: No Rating
  • Cast: Saul Williams and various street poets
  • Credits: Directed by Paul Devlin. Produced by Paul Devlin and Tom Poole.
  • Theatrical Release Date: October 9, 1998

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Marc Smith, a construction worker who founded the National Poetry Slam 12 years ago, describes the annual Portland, Ore., competition as when "the art of performance and the art of poetry come together." Judging from Paul Devlin's dynamic documentary, "SlamNation," which opens a one-week run Friday at the Grande 4-Plex, the delivery counts more than the message, urgent and eloquent as it may be.
     Even so, this intense competition certainly does show how alive and potent poetry can be. To be sure, certain personalities dominate, starting with Taylor Mali, a terrific actor who could easily pass as a Matt Damon-Ben Affleck buddy. Then there's Saul Williams, a lean, intense African American, whose poetry really does sear; he's so riveting it's scarcely surprising that he'll soon be seen as a rapper/poet in "Slam," winner of the grand jury prize at Sundance. Wittiest is Beau Sia, a Chinese American film student who imagines a collaboration with Quentin Tarantino. It could happen. (213) 617-0268. -- Kevin Thomas


last updated: Tuesday October 20, 1998


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