Romeo is Bleeding

This documentary from the United States is featured at the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival. Written and directed by Jason Zeldes ("Twenty Feet From Stardom") we follow a young man trying to use his artistic talent to save his home town. His original ambition had been "to be the biggest drug dealer EVER!"

Richmond, California has been the battlefield for senseless gang warfare that dates back to the 70s. The statistics are astounding; even young men in this documentary are not safe. There are shootings almost daily and the death toll is shocking. In addition, the petroleum refinery explodes every seven or eight years (they evacuated during the filming) and they have a staggering number of asthma sufferers among their young people. What a life!

We watch:
  • Donté Clark is from a large family whose father is in jail. His mother is overwhelmed and he vented his frustrations in a poem. This paved the way for him to be involved in a Poetry Slam where one of his teachers recognized his potential. He saw a balcony on the theater stage and the inspiration for Romeo and Juliet struck. The parallels between the long-standing feuds in Richmond and Verona are unmistakable.
  • D'Neise Robinson is Donté's Juliet, although they have renamed their characters and reworked the plot to fit this contemporary situation. Each student writes his or her own dialogue, keeping in mind the basic plot and the part each character plays.
  • Molly Raynor is the dedicated teacher who changed Donté's life.
My biggest problem is my inability to decipher Rap, so much of the dialogue went right over my head. We saw some of the students as they participated in the planning, then saw their death certificates as they were made out on screen. As Donté says, "I have lost a brother, a cousin, many friends, and now a student. We have to stop killing each other!"