By Diane Znamierowski
Steam rolling off the smokestacks of the Milwaukee skyline breathes the soul of the city seldom viewed on the silver screen. The same city where the Fonz from Happy Days could jumpstart a jukebox with the punch of his fist is a far cry from reality. Forget the Cunninghams, and Laverne and Shirley. Turn your back on the sitcom stereotype, Milwaukee’s got soul. Lost industry and violence litter the headlines, a place known for beer, brats and motorcycles. A place of inspiration which has given birth to so many voices and views ranging from actors, poets, artists and musical genius. Spoken word is the new brew in the city.
In filmmaker Brad Pruitt’s latest film we finally see some of the true flavor that is Milwaukee. It’s the art that lives and breathes behind the scenes. It’s the heart and soul of the people that moves you through rhymes and lines.
‘Mark My Words’ takes us on a journey through a day in the lives of eight incredibly inspiring poets. As you step into the lives of these gifted wordsmiths you begin to see some of the true essence of Milwaukee. Learn how this diverse city brought forth a calling from within each of them. Milwaukee native Pruitt used eight camera crews to follow around each of the poets for 24 hours. From dawn to dawn, you see what real life is like for some of the voices you would normally only get to hear on stage. In this documentary you find out where their passions were born.
From the back seat of a car at 5:00 am at the start of the film, spoken word artist Muhibb Dyer is returning from an event that showcased all eight performers. As the city lights reflect the rain soaked windshield of the car, the words like the rain, come steady. Stories spill from his lips and out through the camera, into the microphone and off the stage. The impact of spoken word is felt far beyond the audience seated at the club that night. The impact is seen in the faces of the performers, the photos of their families, the smiles of her children as Dasha Kelly sends them off to school in the morning and from Shelly’s tender embrace of her husband. They explore topics too often unnoticed.
In one scene, poets Dyer, Kwabena Nixon, and K-Love gather at a school and ask students to share their poetry. A young teenage mother comes forward with her heart on her sleeve. It’s hard to hold back the tears when she describes being a young mother and how desperately she wants another life. Snippets of poetry performances on the stage talk about love and loss. Lust, mistrust, sex and cheating, creep into the forefront of Autumn Blaze’s performance. Dasha Kelly tantalizes the stage in her rendition of what love means to a woman. Nixon and Dyer address the way black men are portrayed in the media and popular culture. Frustrations and rage over race relations get aired out. Ms. Jazzi and Kwabena share sadness and grief over losing loved ones to incarceration. Some of the poets touch on family and friends lost to violence and taken too soon. The power of their words takes you through an emotional journey where you find yourself at a loss for words.
‘Mark My Words’ is beautifully created intertwining the lives of these eight talented poets. Their powerful words are surrounded by a cultural cross collaboration of music that walks with you hand in hand throughout the film. You will see, hear, and feel the world through these poets’ eyes as their spoken word is sculpted to feed your mind and to soothe your soul. It articulates the passion, the pain, the joy and the release of the art form they have pledged their lives to. This is a journey you won’t soon forget.