Institute History


A talented Black poet, Ray (Saul Williams) is arrested on a petty drug possession charge and thrown into a D.C. jail. As he navigates prison and two rival gangs, Ray befriends Lauren (Sonja Sohn), who teaches a writing class for inmates and takes an interest in his poetry and his pending legal hearing. Refusing to accept the “options” given to him by a racist system, Ray finds salvation in his rhymes.

Marc Levin’s charged testament to the transcendent power of art and scathing indictment of the criminal justice system, SLAM won the 1998 Sundance Grand Jury Prize, gave voice to emergent artists like Williams, Sohn, Bonz Malone, Beau Sia, and Liza Jessie Peterson, and contributed to a growing criminal justice reform movement. A documentarian, Levin sought creative collaborators in co-writers Williams, Sohn, and Richard Stratton (editor/publisher of Prison Life magazine), and many roles were played by inmates and non-professional actors.

A new digital restoration from a 35mm interpositive made in collaboration between Sundance Institute, the Academy Film Archive, and the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Special thanks to Lionsgate.

Screening Details

As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]