Summertime is a unique vision, a series of spoken word pieces created by a variety of young artists all blended together into one overarching narrative of a day in the life of these young people in Los Angeles. Given that it is so unique and unusual, I could not pass up the opportunity to watch it, especially as my favored form of writing is fiction, and in fiction words are everything. Not only does this film highlight the words and creativity of these poets but it also savors the soul of Los Angeles, the vibrancy of the place as much as the people. It is beautiful, unique, and soulfully presented.
Summertime, directed by Carlos López Estrada and with the screenplay by Dave Harris, showcases the spoken-word pieces of 27 diverse high school performers. Presented over the course of one hot summer day in Los Angeles, the lives of 25 Angelinos intersect, a skating guitarist, a tagger, two wannabe rappers, an exasperated fast-food worker, a limo driver, and a yahoo critic, all weave into and out of each other’s stories as their words and dreams are expressed. The performers were incorporated into the film as the actors, each piece part of their story on the screen.
Summertime feels like a love poem to both the city of LA and the poets that are featured in the film. Part of the reason is the way each spoken word resonates with the life of a performer and then is used to illustrate another slice of the city. The visual elements of the movie help focus the viewer on the performers, their thoughts, and dreams but also allows us to see how intricately they are tied to the city of Los Angeles, how much the city impacts their lives, and their art. The creative imagery ties the performances and the performers into a broader vision.
Another element that helps the film resonate with viewers is the way the stories are tied together, weaving each performer’s story together with the others. Each piece resonates as well because it brings to light ideas and issues that impact not only these young performers but also others like them in both LA and around the country. And in incorporating these actual performers who wrote the spoken-word pieces into the film, it creates authenticity and demonstrates the real voice of these youth. It is empowering and powerful. And having each person connect to others along their path, that’s just real life, as so many times a city and the people in it are really smaller than we think, the connections deeper and more diverse.
It is for me, though, the performers themselves that create the strongest dynamic in the film. Yes, how their stories are blended together creates a narrative for the audience to follow but it is their words and their dialogue that forges a connection, emotions that the audience listens to. The dialogue is peppered with lines from their performances that hit you with emotion. I loved lines like, ‘dismal to dazzle’, ‘city of Jason’, ‘some wounds never heal’, ‘maybe we aren’t depressed, we’re just hungry’, and ‘spread your wings and fly like the ground is on fire’. The words, the emotions, and the connections all engage the audience and will burn into your memories long after the film is over. Like a fire, the words burn into your soul.
While this is distinctly unique and not the typical way to build a film, the story still ties together, especially at the end. The day begins at dawn and ends at dusk. One day beginning to end, will exceptional performances from the young actors and writers that were invited to take part. And while the spoken word is unusual it is balanced well, never overdone, always leading the viewer from one story to the next with finesse. There are lows and highs, much like any city would have in a day but in the end, there are fiery confrontations and thoughtful conversations, many beautiful poems, and performances that make you long for more.
If you love poetry, spoken word, creative endeavors, this film is absolutely worth checking out. Like good poetry, the words will bring you in, the stories will take over, and the emotions will stay with you long after the performances. The young performers and their words may make you wish for more but like a good story, it ends in a satisfactory way. The connections are real and the friendships beautiful. It illustrates the lives woven together across the city of Los Angeles, the slice of dreams that motivate young people but also what makes Los Angeles so vibrant, it gives you a picture into the very spirit of LA and Angelinos.
Rating: 5 out 5 spoken-word performances
Official Website: Summertime Movie | From the Director of Blindspotting | Coming Soon – Good Deed Entertainment
Over the course of a hot summer day in Los Angeles, the lives of 25 young Angelenos intersect. A skating guitarist, a tagger, two wannabe rappers, an exasperated fast-food worker, a limo driver—they all weave in and out of each other’s stories. Through poetry they express life, love, heartache, family, home, and fear. One of them just wants to find someplace that still serves good cheeseburgers. “Summertime” is made by Los Angeles Media Fund (LAMF) and stars Austin Antoine as Rah, Marquesha Babers as Marquesha, Bryce Banks as Anewbyss, Bene’t Benton as Bene’t, Amaya Blankenship as Amaya, Caedmon Branch as Sam, Mila Cuda as Mila, Gabriela de Luna as Alejandra, Joel Dupont, Walter Finnie Jr. as Walter, Gordon Ip as Gordon, Alyssa Kim as Diane, Doug Klinger as Music Video Director, Maia Mayor as Sophia, Anna Osuna as Anna, Sun Park as Hayun, Sophia Thomas as Sam’s Mom, and Tyris Winter as Tyris. Directed by Carlos López Estrada, produced by Simon Horsman, Vero Kompali, Diane Luby Lane, Carlos López Estrada, Jeffrey Soros, Kimberly Stuckwisch, and Alisa Tager, distributed by Good Deed Entertainment, and will premiere exclusively in theaters on Friday, July 16, 2021.
ONE-LINER: Over the course of a hot summer day in Los Angeles, the lives of 25 young Angelinos intersect.