Film examines war, poetry, free speech

The independent film "Committing Poetry in Times of War" is being screened at 6:30 p.m. today at Hidden Springs Wellness Center, 1651 Siskiyou Blvd.

The film is presented by the Ashland-based production company Ubuntuworks as part of a workshop led by producer and Ashland resident Eric Sirotkin, who is also featured in the film. Sirotkin, a long-time human rights lawyer and peace activist, brings the film to Ashland just before screenings at fall Film festivals in Canada, South Africa (where it garnered a Best Documentary nomination) and other parts of the U.S.

"Committing Poetry" examines events that came to define the struggle of a nation at war abroad and with its people, according to event coordinators. When the bombs began to fall on Iraq, Humanities Teacher and Youth Poetry Coach, Bill Nevins, was suspended and later, fired, from his teaching job. His outspoken Rio Rancho New Mexico School Poetry Slam Team was forcibly disbanded and silenced.

Nevins was the last of seven area educators removed that month by fearful administrators seeking to quell the questions, thoughts, debates, and artwork of students.

Just days after Nevins' removal, hundreds of peaceful protestors demonstrating nearby were brutally assaulted by police. Demonstrators were continuously corralled into "Free Speech Zones" away from traffic and public view. If even a small group of protestors ventured out of these so-called "free-speech" zones onto their own sidewalks, city police officers held them at gunpoint. Within one week, constitutional guarantees crumbled, and the repercussions from silencing of our youth and suppressing civil liberties continue to this day.

The film is a result of the settlement of Nevins' court battle in 2004; with Nevins' attorney, Sirotkin, and his production company Ubuntuworks, serving as Executive Producer. It is directed, written and edited by New Mexico digital filmmaker, stavros, of Dogone Pictures, from a story he jointly crafted with Sirotkin.

"Committing Poetry in Times of War" features a host of slam poets and musicians captured from 2003 to 2005 in Poetic Justice events, many providing great insights into the human dilemma and our human potential. Music by Black 47, Zachary Richard, Jenny Bird, and Sobernt enhance the diverse original score weaving a lush musical bed as the story unfolds through a visceral poem.

It was a winner of the New Mexico State Film Office's New Vision Award and the 2007 Telluride Talking Gourd Poetry Festival's Tellus Award as Poetry Film of the Year.

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