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SLAM

USA, 1997 (MIFF 1998, International Panorama)

Director: Marc Levin

Slam is a powerful, sensitive portrait of Raymond Joshua a talented black poet from the Washington DC projects. When he is arrested on petty drug charges, Joshua is thrown into the black hole that is the DC county jail. There he meets the two people who can redirect his life: a prison gang leader and a female poet teaching a self-expression class to inmates.

Following various street-wise documentaries, Slam marks the first feature for award-winning director Marc Levin. Inspiration for Slam came to him just moments after dodging a drive-by shooting while making his acclaimed 1993 documentary Gang War: Bangin' in Little Rock. A young boy approached, said he had seen Levin filming on the streets, and wondered when he was going to tell the story he wanted to be told. According to Levin, "Slam is my answer to that question".

The welcome tone of authenticity and honesty that comes with Slam is partly due to Levin's grounding in documentary. Actor Bonz Malone (chiefly known as Spin magazine's principal hip-hop scribe) brought his own experiences of jail life to the shaping of Hopha, the prison gang leader. The scenes shot on location in the DC jail gave supporting roles to 16 prisoners, although not without a few potential outbursts from the other prisoners at the time. The unique closeness of the crew with the realities of the film lend Slam a realistic edge and voice too often muffled in similar productions.

"While Slam offers no easy answers - the extraordinary final image hints that we are all prisoners of an inherently flawed legal system - it is an inspirational film that cannot fail to resonate with those persuaded into the theatres." - Screen International

Marc Levin has won numerous awards for his documentary films exploring the worlds of street gangs, prisons and the US juvenile justice system, including a recent Duppont Award for a series on the CIA, America's Secret Warriors. Slam won the 1998 Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and the Public Prize at Cannes.

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