"Romeo is Bleeding" at Heartland Film Festival

 Heartland Film Festival presented the film “Romeo is Bleeding” Saturday at 2:30 at AMC Castleton Square. The film will be played three more times during the week and the star, Danté, of the documentary will be at the Wheeler Theater in Fountain Square Friday at 8 p.m. 

Poster designed by Matt Mason, image courtesy of Romeoisbleeding.com

Poster designed by Matt Mason, image courtesy of Romeoisbleeding.com

“Romeo is Bleeding” is a documentary by Jason Zeldes, who edited the 2013 Academy Award winner, “Twenty Feet From Stardom.”

The documentary tells the story of Donté Clark, a poet who lives in the violent city of Richmond, Cal. Donté is stepping out to try to stop the violence and to show his community that they are all the same and the killing gang mentality must end.

The history of the violence between Northern Richmond and Central Richmond is one that is long and not well understood by the community. The film captures the unnecessary gun violence that occurs every day in America’s poor black communities.

While growing up Donté hoped to be Richmond’s biggest drug dealer. Luckily his involvement with his college prepatory school, Making Waves,  was able to change his career path from a hustler to a poet, and help make a change for the good. He helped form Richmond Artists With Talent, RAW Talent, who put on his adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.”

RAW Talent gives Donté a voice and a voice to all the students who he works with. It is a safe place to come and voice the fears they have, and is a positive place for them to release frustrations.

Los Angeles’ poet laureate, Luis Rodriguez is shown in the film supporting Donté and he introduces RAW Talent’s play “Te’s Harmony.” While introducing the play he speaks about creativity bringing social change and says that when beauty is not released it turns into violence.

The film’s director Jason Zeldes agrees.

“Using the arts to heal communities isn’t a new idea, but to practice it is still shockingly rare, and communities like Richmond sorely need outlets like RAW Talent,” Zeldes wrote in his press release.

Part of the film’s immense power comes from the stunning visual cuts and cinematography. The film although graphic and emotionally difficult to watch at points is beautiful and raw much like the poetry of Donté Clark. The sounds of gun blasts and screeching tires bring you into the film. The use of added drum beats and music turns Donté into Kendrick Lamar.

Fans of the album “To Pimp a Butterfly” will find the poetry coming out of Richmond to be very similar. Both tell the universal tale of poverty and the marginalization of the black community within America.

This film is a must see if you plan on attending Heartland Film Festival. If you care about documentaries, poetry, rap, violence, or human beings go and see this film. Go see it Friday at 8 p.m. at Wheeler Arts Community in Fountain Square, and go and shake Donté’s hand for doing something important.