Director Jason Zeldes Talks ‘Romeo Is Bleeding’ Doc

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Director Jason Zeldes Talks ‘Romeo Is Bleeding’ Doc
Posted by Farah Adel Idrees

July 28, 2017

Very recently, Blackfilm.com caught up with some of the team from the very important documentary “Romeo is Bleeding.” We spoke to Director Jason Zeldes, the legend and Executive Producer Russell Simmons and the incredible poet and main subject of this documentary, Donté Clark.

Romeo is Bleeding is a powerful, award-winning documentary that takes on a journey with Donté Clark and his community from Richmond, California. He’s a man who found purpose and solace in spoken word and is sharing that gift of his, with the community. The documentary dives into some deep-rooted issues within the Richmond community as Danté and his organization RAW Talent direct their energy and aspire to inspire through the art of poetry and spoken-word.

Through our conversation, we discussed the importance and reason for this documentary, the impact they wish it’s going to have on larger audiences, the relevancy of poetry and much more.

What made you want to make this film and tell Danté’s story? 

Jason Zeldes: It was Danté’s artwork that made me want to tell the story. Long story short, is my cousin who’s in the film, Molly Raynor, she moved to Richmond 10 years ago and she was actually the one who introduced Danté to poetry. And being close to my cousin, I watched him grow as an artist over the years into this powerhouse. Having the opportunity to tell the story of one of my favorite artists at the beginning of his journey was just something that I had to do. So, I approached him 5 years ago about starting a project around his autobiographical adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, which is the perfect framework for a film. And yeah, it started there and it kept growing and growing until you know, you have what we see today.

What was the hardest part about making it. Did you face any conflicts while you were filming or when you were talking to him or anything like that?

Jason Zeldes: Yeah, I’d say the hardest part about making this film was just the proper relationship building. I’m not from Richmond, so I didn’t want to show up and just say to everyone ‘tell me your story right now’. It all happened really organically. Like I was saying, my cousin introduced me to Danté. Danté and I’s relationship was pretty strong right. He introduced me to people all around town. So I started building those relationships and one by one, as those networks spread a little bit, you find yourself talking to people in every corner of town and really getting to tell a representative, fair story. This story of a turf war, while we’re talking to people from both sides of the tracks, but we’re not just talking to the youth. We’re talking to their elders, we’re talking to police officers, we’re talking to just about everybody to really paint the full picture.

What do you say to people who think of poetry as a dying art? They don’t think that it’s as important or that we should really be doing it. What do you say to those people?

Jason Zeldes: I think we’re about to see a real renaissance of spoken word. I mean I see in in Richmond. I’m now plugged into the spoken word community. It’s life changing for the youth that engage with it. I mean it’s the process of discovering your own voice and realizing that if you shout it out, people will applaud you for it and react to it. And you learn so much about yourself and about your environment through writing and performing. I think that the poetry that’s “dying” it’s not what I think of when I think of Danté and RAW Talent’s spoken word poetry. I mean this is so relevant and so energetic and frankly, very young and cool. So, I think we’ll see a lot of it in the near future.

Do you think this can heal a community?

Jason Zeldes: In communities like Richmond, the problems that they’re facing are systematic problems that took generations to get into the situation that we’re currently in. I think that self-expression and communal catharsis like they’re practicing at RAW Talent is the beginning of reversing that trend. It’s the breaking of that cycle. It’s taking all these stereotypes that exist in the community and turning them on their head, and using it for good and turning it into something really beautiful and powerful. So I think it’s absolutely the beginning. It’s the perfect core for starting a positive movement.

‘Romeo Is Bleeding’  is now playing in wider theaters today after opening in New York on July 19.


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