School spelling bees have often been fodder for documentaries — young people trying to control their sweaty palms, navigate the overwhelming pressure of academic competition, and, if they’re lucky, develop a sense of self along the way.
But many of these films perpetuate a desire to succeed that often excludes black and Latino adolescents. That’s what makes “Don’t Be Nice” such an interesting watch.
The debut feature from director Max Powers (known for his editing work in films like “Alone Together” and “Big Cheat”) has nothing to do with being able to spell SAT words for cash prizes, but rather using words in a similar competition setting to empower the oppressed.
The film centers a group of young black and Latino adults who make up the Bowery Slam Poetry Team in New York City,
Unlike the spelling bees in other films, there doesn’t seem to be a monetary incentive as the team enters regional and national slam poetry contests, performing work that is equal parts confrontational and moving.
“Don’t Be Nice” opens in select theaters on September 20.
Read the story at TheWrap.
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