While the experience of watching movies is central to the Sarasota Film Festival, the filmmakers and poets tied to the To Be Heard documentary are also making sure young people grow up experiencing the value of the written word.
Indeed, the experience at the festival goes beyond the screenings of the film. Poet Pearl Quick, 24, is spending much of today in Manatee County education settings speaking with high school and college students about the value of literary literacy. On Thursday evening, she and fellow poet Karina Sanchez will hold a slam poetry performance at 7pm at Bookstore1Sarasota.
“I personally come from a neighborhood where teens are told to speak when spoken to,” says the Bronx native. “But if teens are not raised to have a voice, then they are not raised to be leaders.”
Director Roland Legiardi-Laura spent five years filming students going through a literacy program in New York and saw the value that literacy played in the success of individuals. He noted 70 percent of prison inmates in America are functionally illiterate, making that single trait the greatest demographic commonality among prisoners.
“If you can’t read in this country, you are going to jail,” he says.
During an interview with SRQ Mag Backlot, he noted I could not function well at my own job without the ability to communicate with strangers or to read and write. Likewise, he couldn’t be a good filmmaker without those skills. Truly, any career demands basic literacy, yet it can be overlooked in many social circles, resulting in devastating consequences.
And Legiardi-Laura doesn’t want his own efforts to stop with the film. He has also launched the transmedia effort Power Poetry, which aims to give rising young poets a platform to reach the world. Quick is writing about a poem a week to support that site, and Legiardi-Laura hopes some teenaged poets can get connected with professional organizations through their own creative expression.
But those who can read can become movie stars, and get a nice trip from New York to Sarasota in the springtime. Before making their Wednesday educational sojourn, Quick said she and Sanchez were getting their share of time on the beach. Now that’s some poetic inspiration.
To Be Heard screens Wednesday at 5:45pm and Friday at 2:45pm.