Movie lovers gathered in Brooklyn’s historic Greenwood Cemetery this past Thursday for a night of laughs, tears, gasps, and of course, short films.
Getting an opportunity to be in the room with greatness is always a beautiful way to spend your night. With the help of Reel Works, we got an opportunity to speak to a few change makers.
Nonprofit “Get Lit” Hosts Documentary Screening and Mental Health Discussion Panel
On March 23, the nonprofit “Get Lit” screened thirty minutes of the documentary, “Our Words Collide.” The film showcased five poets from the Get Lit program. After, a mental health panel featured director Jordan Barrow, and two youth poets, Sam Luo, and Amari Turner. Author and mental health activist Héctor Tobar led the discussion. The event showed the organization’s positive impacts on literacy and young people.
Author and educator Diane Luby Lane founded the Get Lit in 2006. The nonprofit increases literacy and empowered young people through poetry, visual media, and spoken word. They designed a curriculum for in-school and after school programs, which cumulated in three-day Classic Slam poetry competitions. Get Lit Players, the organization’s award-winning youth poetry troupe, collaborated with the White House, United Nations and musician John Legend. The organization inspires students to read and write.
To learn more about these initiatives, read the interview transcript with Diane Luby Lane below.
The Knockturnal: What was the vision behind the Get Lit non-profit?
Diane Luby Lane: I started Get Lit in 2006 because I wanted to bring poetry to kids in schools.
When I lived in New York City I met an actress named Viveca Lindfors who turned my theater company into a place for poetry. She had us memorize an hour’s worth of material (I knew nothing about poetry, so I had to quickly self-educate myself) – that we would then perform guerrilla-poetry style in the street, in bars, the steps of museums. The only requirement was that they had to be dramatic poems that were easy to understand. For me, this became life-changing.
Four years later I lived in San Francisco and met a man named James Kass, who is now the founder of Youth Speaks. He was just starting this organization (Youth Speaks) which focused on young people performing their own poems – “spoken word” – and watching them blew my mind. Within a few months, I was volunteering as the head of their drama department, and I loved it.
I had written a book of original monologues for women that was published by Samuel French, so I already loved writing and short-form storytelling. But I wasn’t familiar with “spoken word” until I started working with Youth Speaks.
Eventually, I pulled all of it together and started Get Lit.
In 2001 I moved to Los Angeles and I introduced the Get Lit curriculum to students in schools, not knowing if they would like it, but the positive response was overwhelming, and I have never looked back.
The Knockturnal: Can you tell us about the event that happened on Tuesday and why Get Lit put it together?
Diane Luby Lane: Mental health has always been an area that has been important to me. The Get Lit curriculum allows students to learn ways to express what they are feeling, or going through, but more importantly, know they are not alone, and feel supported.
Earlier this year, we received a significant grant from CALmhsa to help bring attention to and continue awareness around mental health. This allowed us to give our young poets another opportunity to be heard, and to continue the very important discussion of mental health. So we partnered with Hollywood talent agency William Morris Endeavor (WME) and created a symposium to talk about mental health. The event included a discussion with “Our Words Collide” director Jordan Barrow, two youth poets, Sam Luo and Amari Turner, and was led by author and mental health activist, Héctor Tobar. The evening included a 30-minute look at the film “Our Words Collide” and concluded with live performances from three of Get Lit’s youth poets Lila Abercrombie, Jessica Thompson, and Ashley Tahay.
We are incredibly grateful to CALmhsa for letting us get the message of spoken word and mental health out into the world.
The Knockturnal: Why do you think it is important to continue discussing Mental Health?
Diane Luby Lane: This work for young people is absolutely critical. Below are some alarming statistics illuminating this point. In his new book, Together, Surgeon General of the United States, Vivek H. Murthy, MD states that we need community if we are to survive it.
“In The Atlantic’s “What Happened to American Childhood,” Kate Julian says “from 2007 to 2017, suicides among 10-to-24-year-olds rose 56 percent … “Suicides between ages 5 to 11 have almost doubled.” Writer Daniel Thompson in “Why American Teens Are So Sad” writes, “Almost every measure of mental health is getting worse… Since 2009, teen sadness and hopelessness have increased for every race; for straight and gay teens; for students in each year of high school; and in all 50 states.”
Young people are really struggling with mental health right now and creating outlets for feelings, and community through art is an essential healing tool. It absolutely saves lives. And even better – it makes lives! Through this deep work, people are forever changed, becoming not only survivors but thrivers.
The Knockturnal: Can you discuss the youth poets’ live performances? Who were they? How were they selected?
Diane Luby Lane: All of the performing poets distinguished themselves at the Classic Slam through their all-star performance poems. They are master storytellers and heartfelt human beings.
The Knockturnal: What were the poems about?
Diane Luby Lane: Poems at the Classic Slam ranged from issues of identity, family, race, personal power and agency, body issues, love… They run the whole gamut of human issues and feelings.
The Knockturnal: Anything more you would like to add?
Diane Luby Lane: Youth experts from the Search Institute, in their report “Relationships First: Creating Connections That Help Young People Thrive” write: “After decades of forming hypotheses, conducting surveys, crafting and rewriting definitions, analyzing data, and writing journal articles, Search Institute researchers and practitioners have arrived at a surprisingly simple conclusion: nothing—nothing—has more impact in the life of a child than positive relationships.”
US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy says, “Given the profound consequences of loneliness and isolation, we have an opportunity, and an obligation, to make the same investments in addressing social connection that we have made in addressing tobacco use, obesity, and the addiction crisis. We are called to build a movement to mend the social fabric of our nation. It will take all of us -”
Schools don’t do enough to cultivate in children the skills that are at the heart of the caring friendships that prevent and mitigate loneliness, including the capacity to ask questions and listen, to check for understanding when listening or communicating, to identify feelings in oneself and others, and to respond sensitively to difficult feelings in others. Nonprofits and educational providers like Get Lit can step in here to help! We must recognize caring for others as one of the most important features of being alive. It will benefit our children, ourselves, and our world.
The Knockturnal: Please tell us about the film “Our Words Collide.”
Diane Luby Lane: From Directors Jordan W. Barrow and Matt Edwards, and Executive Producer Rosario Dawson, “Our Words Collide” is a feature documentary following the lives of five teenage spoken word poets in Los Angeles. A coming-of-age story, the film documents the poets as they navigate their final year of high school, exploring many of the challenges facing young people today – including identity and expression, transitioning into adulthood, and overcoming mental health issues.
The film highlights the poets of the Get Lit program – a non-profit organization in Los Angeles educating and empowering young people through poetry.
The film seamlessly blends authentic verité scenes and intimate footage, self-shot by the poets. Complimented by stylized poetry performances and animation, the film creates a rich tapestry of mixed mediums that bring the poet’s stories to life.
Commencing production in September 2019 and concluding in April 2021, the film also captures an intimate glimpse into the lives of young people during the global pandemic. For many of these high schoolers, their senior year was very different than the one they’d always imagined.
While the film is an exploration of how poetry has impacted the lives of these young people, it’s ultimately a coming-of-age story. It’s a film about young people finding their voices and having the courage to share their message – one that feels very relevant, and relatable, in today’s world.
The Knockturnal: How did the documentary “Our Words Collide” come to Get Lit and can you give us some information on the film?
Diane Luby Lane: One of the film’s Directors, Jordan Barrow, worked with me on another project he was doing for March For Our Lives. He fell in love with the poets at Get Lit and their profound ability to convey stories through poetry. He wanted to dive deeper and so reached out to follow 5 poets for one year. We didn’t know that Covid 19 was about to happen – and so this movie became about the lifeline of writing poems to help process overwhelming feelings of despair. Over the course of one year, we follow how this art form impacted five diverse youths and how each used poetry to uplift themselves and the entire world around them.
The Knockturnal: How did Get Lit select the documentary’s featured poets?
Diane Luby Lane: Jordan and Matt Edwards (the film’s other Director) met with many youths participating through Get Lit and selected the poets themselves for this process.
The Knockturnal: What do you hope viewers will get from the documentary?
Diane Luby Lane: I hope that they learn about Get Lit and the power of this art form to absolutely save lives! And how fun it is too! The global community of spoken word poets is the most loving and rich and deep and fun in the world!
The Knockturnal: In the documentary, what were the topics of the poems?
Diane Luby Lane: They range so many emotions – homelessness, childhood abuse, body issues, sexuality, excellence and achievement, Covid panic, isolation, poverty, anxiety, creativity…
The Knockturnal: Does Get Lit have any upcoming events or initiatives that you would like to talk about?
Diane Luby Lane: Get Lit offers Curriculum and Community.
Get Lit curricula has been approved by the University of California to satisfy “A-G” standards for English, Fine Arts, General Electives, and Ethnic Studies and includes wrap-around services like the entrance to the Classic Slam, in-school assemblies, mentor visits, Professional Development for teachers, and access to our online anthology and Uni(verse) which is our hybrid learning system. Our goal is to bring spoken word poetry to any school that’s interested from anywhere in the world so that youth can share their stories, create community at school, and connect more deeply with others. This work is grassroots and global, and it’s needed now more than ever before.
Lucy Liu and Colin K. Gray at NYC premiere of UNZIPPED: An Autopsy of American Inequality
We were at the NYU School of Law for the New York City premiere of the new documentary UNZIPPED: An autopsy of American Inequality written and directed by award-winning filmmaker Colin K. Gray and
Singer-songwriter Rachel Grae walks the red carpet. Grae is known for her vulnerable, ripped-from-her-diary songwriting and hopes to help those in need with future music projects.
Television personalities, The Potash Twins, Adeev and Ezra, were present on the red carpet as fans supporting UNZIPPED. They share their views on housing inequality and wanting to push the ball forward to get the going on the work that needs to be done.
A short panel discussion was held after the film. It was moderated by NY Times housing reporter Mahir Zaveri with director Colin K. Gray, NYU Furman Center members, Molly Park from the NYC Department of Social Services, and Kirk Goodrich from NYSAFAH, followed by a reception to discuss the importance of this matter further.
Watch UNZIPPED: An Autopsy of American Inequality here. You will want to get to talking about it. With many ways to get involved, you can check out the affordable housing impact campaign they have built called #raisetheroof. At the impact hub, you can find learning resources, and volunteer opportunities, donate, or enter your zip code in their interactive zip code tracker to find housing services or organizations in your community.
The art campaign Express Yourself encourages people to share stories about what home means to them because it can mean many different things to everyone. You can submit your picture or a work of art expressing what home means to you here. The critical thing is getting people involved and lending their voices to this movement. Keep the movement growing.
I think I have one of the easiest reviews to write in my entire career as a film critic as there’s nothing to say about this movie that you would not already have seen coming. This movie is everything that you would expect it be. There are car chases that get more than out of hand. There are over the top feats of strength, action, and spectacle. And of course, there are many, many mentions of family. Fast X, in the end, is what the fans would want: a simple and sprawling action film. It’s hard to believe they made ten of these already but the filmmakers are very well aware of that fact. The film itself takes jabs at the franchise and its longevity, as well as the fact it has evolved from a series of films on illegal street racers to a cinematic universe of international spies and covert operations.
Louis Leterrier who helmed this film makes his debut making a Fast film and honestly, he did a fairly solid job. What he needed to do right was create action sequences that pushed the limits of gravity and physics and he did exactly that. With credits on his résumé such as The Incredible Hulk, I wasn’t sure where this was going to go, but seeing as how he also directed the The Transporter, you can see why he excelled at shooting car chases. The only knock I could give this film is that none of the dramatic moments seemed to land. Every time Dominic Toretto waxed poetically about family or another character tried to stress the gravity of their situation, it only managed to provoke the laughter of everyone else that was invited to the advanced screening that I attended.
However, dramatic tension isn’t what these movies do best. Explosions and soap opera level twists is what this movie does best and they’re here aplenty. The film ends on a cliffhanger but I also found myself feeling a bit nonchalant about it. Much unlike the end of Avengers: Infinity War which left me begging for more, this film left me feeling just fine to wait for another year or two for the grand finale. The big reason why is that I didn’t feel particularly worried about much of the characters. Honestly, no one really stays dead in this franchise so it’s hard for me to feel concerned that a character that was seemingly killed off is gone forever.
All in all, you know what you’re getting yourself into when you’re watching a Fast and Furious movie and Fast X is no different. As a fan of the series myself, I of course think it’s worth a watch. At the end of the day it epitomizes everything Hollywood stands for and contains every trope it could fit in the two and a half hour run time. Be sure to check it out when you get a chance.
Film Review: “Targets”, Criterion Releases a Terrifying Mass Shooting Horror Film
Exclusive: High Desert Interview with Jay Roach, Christine Taylor and Keir O’Donnell
High Desert premieres Wednesday May 17th on AppleTV+.
The new AppleTV+ series High Desert is a fun comedic and dramatic journey directed by Jay Roach. In this series, Patricia Arquette plays a recovering drug addict named Peggy who’s trying to get a fresh start in the desert of Yucca Valley, California. Peggy meets Bruce(Brad Garrett) a washed-up detective and decides to become a private investigator.
The Knockturnal recently interviewed the director Jay Roach who directed all eight episodes. Jay told us that he was compelled to direct this show after hearing Patricia Arquette explain her interesting character. Jay explained why he found Peggy so interesting, “She’s coping with a lot of dysfunctions. But the flipside of her dysfunction is her functionality, where she actually helps a lot of people in the desert and then decides to become a private investigator because who wouldn’t?”
We also spoke with Christine Taylor(Dianne) and Keir O’Donnell(Stewart) who play Peggy’s siblings in this series. Christine explained, “The siblings in this story are sort of a grounding force of Peggy.” Dianne and Stewart attempt to protect Peggy from her ambitious ideas as they grieve the death of their mother. Keir told us that “It’s such a wonderful world with just wild, zany characters…I think a lot of the comedy comes from pain sometimes, and there’s a lot of sort of like heaviness, almost like we’re grieving for our dead mother.”
Watch the three episode premiere of High Desert this Wednesday only on AppleTV with new episodes + on Wednesdays through June 21.
Disney Plus’ “American Born Chinese” World Premiere In NYC!
Radio City’s Music Hall was bursting with excitement, as the large sign under the iconic Radio City, said “Disney Plus’ American Born Chinese World Premiere!”
Exclusive: Dylan Sprouse and Virginia Gardner Talk New Movie Beautiful Disaster
Since its release in 2011, Jamie McGuire’s bestselling novel “Beautiful Disaster” has been a fan favorite. Dylan Sprouse and Virginia Gardner are delighting audiences in their portrayal of McGuire’s iconic characters in the all-new film adaptation of the beloved story. The film follows the tumultuous and passionate relationship between Abby Abernathy, played by Gardner, and Travis Maddox, played by Sprouse. Abby is a smart and independent college student who’s trying to start a new life, while Travis is a charming and dangerous underground fighter who captures her heart.
Capturing the essence of characters like Abernathy and Maddox is no easy task. But Sprouse and Gardner do it beautifully with their undeniable on-screen chemistry and deep understanding of the characters and their pasts. Sprouse’s portrayal of Maddox has been a standout performance, with the former Disney star bringing a sense of charm and intensity to the character. Gardner’s portrayal of Abby Abernathy is also deeply loved, with her ability to capture the character’s strength and vulnerability making for a unique and unforgettable performance. The knockturnal sat down with Sprouse and Gardner to talk all about their new film! Check out the full interview!
Beautiful Disaster is now streaming on Prime Video!