Original theatrical poster for 1998’s “SLAM” Credit: Courtesy photo

The iconic Black film, “SLAM” surrounding the story of a troubled, yet good-hearted poet (Saul Williams) who finds love (Sonja Sohn) and his voice at a local slam poetry session in Washington, D.C. has been restored as a part of the Sundance Institute’s Archives & Collection program in celebration of the 25th anniversary. The film first premiered at Sundance in 1998 and won the Grand Jury Prize. It has been restored from the 35mm interpositive, and a new DCP was created in collaboration between Sundance Institute, the Academy Film Archive, the UCLA Film & Television Archive and Lionsgate. 

“A story that remains as timely today as it was in 1998, ‘SLAM’ exposes the structural inequity of the criminal justice system, and the liberative ability art has to transcend. From the impact of poetry and spoken word to discussions on racial inequality and justice reform, ‘SLAM’ started a critical dialogue and gave a voice to an emerging art form that is now commonplace. Revisiting this pivotal work for the upcoming Festival, ‘SLAM’ invites audiences to re-engage with its influence on the art of spoken word and discourse on the criminal justice system through a contemporary lens,” writes Sundance.

Directed and written by filmmaker Marc Levin, “SLAM” touched multiple communities with its gripping account of the Black experience in Washington, D.C. in the 90s. Williams masterfully plays a brilliant creative mind and wordsmith who finds himself in trouble for the murder of his friend. As he prepares himself to do time for a crime he doesn’t commit, he connects with his beautiful and searingly powerful love interest, Sonya Sohn.

“‘SLAM’ sparked a movement, spreading spoken word poetry around the world,” said Marc Levin, director of “SLAM.” “The key players stayed true to the mission, pursuing a life of independent creative expression and social action. Now, 25 years later, I find myself filming the real-life story of Halim Flowers, whom we met back then in the D.C. Jail, and who ultimately found the magic door out. Many thanks to Sundance, the UCLA Film & Television Archive, the Academy Film Archive, and Lionsgate for recognizing and restoring the film. Its power remains undiminished, but sadly so do the conditions it captured so vividly.”

“‘SLAM’ anticipated a cycle of poetry via the spoken word movement that democratized the voices and voicing of poetry for new generations,” said Saul Williams, screenwriter and star of “SLAM.” “We are still experiencing its ripple in popular culture and academia, worldwide. With its focus not only on poetry, but criminal justice and marijuana, ‘SLAM’ remains a testament of the times.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *