Summertime

Carlos López Estrada, USA, 2020

Catching this online as part of Barcelona’s Americana Film Fest, a celebration of indy films from North America, I didn’t really know what to expect. It turned out to be a wonderful surprise! This is freshest film I’ve seen in ages.

Inspired by a local poetry slam, this film is a showcase for some young (18–20ish) and very talented spoken word poets. Like a themed anthology, it’s very much a collective creation.

During a day in summer 2019, we freewheel around Los Angeles, latching on to a variety of characters as they spend their day around the city. We linger on a scene, are treated to a poetic comment on what’s going on – in the world, in the performer’s head – then someone takes us away from there until we reach a new tableau.

Sometimes it’s funny: the thread of the rap duo trying to make it (then making it!) is particularly daft but amusing; a social media hipster nails it railing against the gentrification of his neighbourhood. Sometimes it’s really heartfelt and heartbreaking: in a performance I challenge anyone not to cry at, a young woman finally faces her demons and confronts the man who made her feel worthless.

It’s about what home means. It’s about being young and confused. It’s about the struggles faced when trying to change deeply entrenched attitudes (about gender, appearance, and what you’re supposed to be). Sometimes it’s a bit sentimental and cheesy, but with such a sense of genuine love, wonder and youthful dreams that it doesn’t grate. It can be wry and knowing, but not cynical.

So if this is the young generation, I am encouraged. I just want to cheer them on.

Following in the footsteps of 20th-century American subcultures (jazz, Beat poets, flower power…), these summertimers are passionate, energetic, tolerant, curious, and motivated. They are true modern urbanites – diverse, hard-working, creative and optimistic, despite being a bit broken at times. It can’t be easy growing up in our identity-obsessed culture, so it’s encouraging to know their values are in the right place.

One of the poets and the poem she performs in the film…

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