While schooling can often rely on mere regurgitation of information courtesy of an incredibly test-driven environment, there are some teachers out there hoping to break the mold, not just by spicing up the lessons they teach and the homework they assign the students to write, but by actually putting power behind their words. Roland Legiardi-Laura co-founded the Power Writers Program at University Heights High School in the South Bronx, which promotes a strong bond between the students and their mentors through which the teachers encourage the class to express themselves through poetry. The documentary To Be Heard grew from that very program.
The film focuses on Anthony, Karina and Pearl, a trio of students and friends that dub themselves “a tripod.” They’ve each got hopes and dreams, but all suffer from the lack of the means and guidance to achieve them. However, with the help of Legiardi-Laura and his co-workers, they’re inspired to work through the tough times and embark on that uphill battle to happiness and success through their writing.
As part of a four-person directing team, Legiardi-Laura began filming Anthony, Karina and Pearl back in 2005. They followed the students through high school and beyond as To Be Heard has gained quite a bit of steam and a ton of support during its journey on the festival circuit. With the help of producer Jim and Jill Angelo and their production company Dialogue Pictures, not only is Legiardi-Laura and his team continuing the effort, preparing to screen at White River Indie Film Festival and The DocYard next week, but also as part of Rooftop Films’ Summer Series, too. You can also catch the film at the Seattle International Film Festival on June 9th and 11th and the Nantucket Film Festival on June 23rd and 26th.
In honor of the film’s expansion, Legiardi-Laura sat down to tell me all about the filmmaking process from beginning to end including the ease and struggle of making four directors work as one, the long term friendship he’s developed with the film’s stars and much more. See it all for yourself in the video interview below.
By Perri Nemiroff