Executive Producer Russell Simmons & Donte Clark Talks ‘Romeo Is Bleeding’ Doc

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 Executive Producer Russell Simmons & Donte Clark 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.

Firstly, I want to start with why you wanted to tell this story and why you wanted to be a part of this project.

Donté Clark: A mentor of mine is Rubin Morgan. He loved Shakespeare. We was working on a project back in May 2012 and we was looking at this venue and he saw this balcony, and he said: “this would be a beautiful Romeo and Juliet scene. I think we should do Romeo and Juliet in Richmond.” At first I was like nah we ain’t doing that. But then Molly Raynor who was my partner running the organization RAW Talent, she said: “no I think we should do that”. So, I wanted to tell this story not because of Romeo and Juliet but because it related to what I was going through in my life and the young people who I was serving. It’s like that’s our story but we don’t always feel represented in the classroom like Romeo and Juliet. So if I can write a piece that can represent what I was going through and have somebody at 15 be able to relate to that in their classrooms, because I didn’t have that, then I want to write that. And then Molly told her cousin Jason Zeldes who was the director of the film to come and film it. I was writing it, rehearsing it, staging it. So, I was already in it before it became what it is now. Once I made that commitment, we was finna see it through.

Russell Simmons: I have an affinity for poetry for a long time. I always think of poetry as a higher angel of hip-hop. It’s hip-hop culture and it’s an expression of a time capsule as all rap and all spoken word is. But it’s silence; operating from silence they say much greater things. They serve a higher angel because it’s silent.
Stillness is where all art comes from, but when you’re stuck and there’s no celebratory music, there’s no music to make you bounce or make you think, or what you really think even better. It’s beautiful. It’s a transformative story. This man is not dead or in jail. I’m lucky, I’m not dead or in jail, because of Art, because of poetry it turns out. So, we survive because of it and we want other people to survive and I think for me it’s love, to work on this picture.

What audience do you wish that this movie reach?

Donté Clark: Everybody, everyone, all ages. I stopped thinking about particular audiences a long time ago. At first I was just like “I’m going to write this for the hood, for the streets” and then I was in front of audiences that didn’t come from where I came from and they were more impacted than people who come from it everyday. So I was like wow, I can’t keep on putting myself in a box that this is for. Nah, this is for everybody. If you want to be better. If you want to be in tune with yourself and if you have ever survived something or ever felt silenced, which a lot of us do feel silenced at times. This film is for you to learn from.

Russell Simmons: I want everybody to see this movie. We’re going to open it in limited theaters and make a big buzz about it, that’s gonna be good. But, I’m gonna make sure everybody sees this movie, everybody. That’s going to be my passion project to make sure everybody sees it. It’s gonna really affect a lot of people and it will inspire people and for him, I want everybody in the hood and everybody else to see it because I want him to get the kind of light so he can give more light. The bigger the ball of light around him, the more he can inspire and change lives and I think that’s the goal here. To really affect people and give them what you love and he’s giving them what he loves so that’s for me, that’s my job.

With the current political climate, there’s a lot of need to be creative and to really dive into the Arts. That’s kind of what RAW Talent is doing. Where do you see RAW Talent going from here? Where do you see the future of RAW Talent per se?

Donté Clark: I feel like the future of RAW Talent is this right here. Just the act of encouraging other young people to start something in their neighborhood if they don’t already have it. Or to join something that’s already a part of it. I feel like the future is just speaking that into existence into everybody else who are not conscious of their own RAW Talent, cause there are other organizations doing the same thing if not even more, but don’t have that same spotlight so just encouraging other folks to tap into their RAW Talent.

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


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