Institute History


Until now, Marc Levin has been known primarily for his award-winning documentaries exploring the worlds of troubled youth, street gangs, prisons, and the juvenile justice system. Here he crosses into drama with a first-rate account of the dilemmas faced by young men similar to those in his previous undertakings. Rarely has the increasingly familiar theme of social and racial oppression been explored with such vitality and impact as in this tale.

Ray Joshua, a talented black poet from the Washington, D.C., projects, is arrested on petty drug charges and thrown into the black hole that is the D.C. jail. There he meets the two people who can redirect his life: a prison gang leader and a beautiful female poet teaching a self-expression class for inmates. Perhaps it’s Levin’s past experience that brings such a welcome tone of authenticity and truth to Slam. Or perhaps it’s the talent that collaborated with him. His cowriters and coproducers include Richard Stratton (editor and publisher of Prison Life magazine), and Saul Williams and Sonja Sohn, who are also the lead actors and are nothing short of brilliant in this charged and realistic chronicle of a young man’s struggle. With a perfectly apt vérité style and wonderful dialogue and poetry (including one particularly striking moment when rap becomes a survival strategy), this is a film which gives voice, often gloriously, to those who remain without an opportunity to be heard.

Marc Levin, Director
Marc Levin has won numerous awards for his documentary films, including a recent Dupont Award for a three-hour series on the CIA, America’s Secret Warriors, for the Discovery Channel. Levin’s 1994 Gang War: Bangin’ in Little Rock screened on HBO and won a CableACE Award. Slam, made in drama verite style on location in the ghetto of southeast Washington, D.C., and at the city jail, was produced by Offline Entertainment and Slam Pictures.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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