Spoken word — often seen less than heard, but that is about to change. All Def Digital and Russell Simmons have partnered with award-winning editor Jason Zeldes to executive produce Zeldes’ documentary feature directorial debut “Romeo Is Bleeding,” a documentary that explores the benefit that spoken word poetry has on the youth in North Richmond, California, one of the most violent suburbs of the country.
The documentary follows poet and community activist, Donté Clark as he leads a cast of high school students in an effort to create a fresh adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet.” The film aims to use the classic story to delve deeper into the contemporary socio-economic issues that drive the violence in their city.
“When I met Donté, I knew this would be the story, subject and mission behind my first film. His personal story and his ability to take a timeless tale and transform it into a tool to teach and redeem a group of kids was profoundly inspirational, and necessary in a time when communities are hurting, tensions are rising, and hope seems fleeting,” said Zeldes.
After already having won more than 20 awards at high profile film festivals, including Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature at the San Francisco International Film Festival, Audience Award Best Documentary at the Aspen Film Fest, and Best Documentary Feature at the Napa Valley Film Festival, the film is now set to be released in select theatres beginning July 28.
“This is a powerful and provocative film that could not be more timely, or timeless. It carries a critical message about the power of the written — and spoken — word to save and transform individuals and communities,” said Simmons. “As funding for the arts, the youth, and community services continues to get slashed, “Romeo Is Bleeding” and its star show us the importance of the arts in our lives and how one person can make a huge difference in even the most hardened of communities.” Simmons, known widely as the founder of iconic hip hop brands such as Def Jam Records and Phat Farm, also brought spoken word to the forefront of artistic culture through nearly a decade of ‘Def Poetry Jam’ on HBO. He also received a Tony Award for ‘Brave New Voices,’ a spoken word inspired play on Broadway.
In addition to its limited theatrical release, “Romeo is Bleeding” will also be available via VOD, DVD, and BluRay on August 1st.