A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
Poetry slams began in Chicago in 1984 and have become an international phenomenon without most people probably having heard of them. They're poetry readings as a spectator sport. Individuals and teams are scored by judges on the Olympic 10-point scale, but while Olympic diving judges claim to be looking at specific elements in a dive, slam judges are responding to emotion, charisma and--well, poetry. Some slammers are also rap artists, but slam and rap are different art forms, and slammers rely only on their voices.
"Louder Than a Bomb" is about the 2008 Chicago-area slam of the same name, the nation's largest. Teams and soloists from 60 high schools compete, and the finalists face off in a city-wide slam that fills a theater usually used for rock concerts. The suspense that year initially centered on Steinmetz, a troubled inner city school that had never entered before it won the 2007 Bomb in a thrilling upset. Can Steinmetz and its coach, James Sloan, repeat?
The film was directed by Greg Jacobs and Jon Siskel (Gene's nephew), who followed several competitors for months and guessed well in choosing those they focused on. The 2008 Steinmetz team had some gifted repeaters, and we also meet three outstanding solo talents:
• Nova Venerable from Oak Park/River Forest High School, who helps her mom with the complex needs of a disabled kid brother and then writes about that and her absent father.