To Be Heard

To Be Heard

Pearl Quick, Karina Sanchez and Anthony Pittman as seen in TO BE HEARD, a film by Roland Legiardi-Laura, Edwin Martinez, Deborah Shaffer and Amy Sultan. Picture courtesy Dialogue Pictures. All rights reserved.

To Be Heard

Executive Producer:
Original Music by:
Additional Music by:
  • Adrian Martinez
Production Company:
  • Dialogue Pictures
  • ITVS
  • Odysseus Group
  • Rebel Voices

* Most external filmography links go to The Internet Movie Database.

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To Be Heard (2010/2011)

Opened: 10/12/2011 Limited

Docuweeks/NY08/19/2011 - 08/25/20117 days
Docuweeks/LA08/26/2011 - 09/01/20117 days
IFC Center10/12/2011 - 10/18/20117 days
Laemmle's Musi...11/04/2011 - 11/10/20117 days

Trailer: Click for trailer

Websites: Home, Twitter, Facebook

Genre: Documentary

Rated: Unrated


To Be Heard is the story of three teens from the South Bronx whose struggle to change their lives begins with writing poetry. As writing and reciting become vehicles for their expressions of love, friendship, frustration, and hope, we watch these three youngsters emerge as accomplished, self--aware artists, who change their circumstances with their creativity.

A verite film intimately shot over four years, To Be Heard is not structured by merely weaving together three separate stories in parallel. It is the story of three friends and the love that develops among them as they evolve as artists and grow into adults. This "tripod," as they call it, is bound by proximity, circumstance, and poetry. To Be Heard is also the story of how language connects people. Pearl is the support and soul of the three; Karina is the passion and heart; and Anthony is the energy and physicality. In a community where friendships are kept tenuous for many reasons, these three build a bond based on language, respect, and the need to survive.

As To Be Heard opens, we are introduced to three students at University Heights High School who live in the South Bronx, the poorest urban county in the United States. Karina, Anthony, and Pearl have all struggled since birth. Every day, they confront directly the suffering and oppression of poverty, broken families, and an indifferent, often hostile school system. This bond of circumstance strengthens their friendship, and the core of the film is the tale of their tripod as it transforms from a mutual admiration society into an alternative family based on support, love, and loyalty.

We first meet Karina, 17, a dancer and poet who, as the oldest of 7 in a household led by a single mother, is saddled with the hardcore chores and duties of caring for and raising her siblings. Karina's mom, Heide, has had a hard life, and the scars of that hardship are reflected in her contentious and abusive relationship with her daughter. Karina wants to grow up, leave home and be on her own, but her love for her family and her fear of failure make it nearly impossible for her to make such a radical break. Her poetry speaks of oppression and liberation. She uses her words like a length of rope, hauling herself from the quicksand.

We are next introduced to Anthony, 17, a streetwise young poet who tells us, "Out here they give you a ball and a gun and tell you, 'Shoot the basket or shoot each other.'" As the film opens, Anthony's dad is serving a 15--year prison sentence for conspiracy to sell crack cocaine, and Anthony has not seen him since he was six years old. As we follow Anthony's story, his raw poetic talent emerges, and he grabs at a chance for the success and recognition he craves. He begins to win poetry--slam competitions and finds himself with a shot at the National Championship Finals. The question for Anthony is clear: Will he falter as he tries to escape the shadow of his father's example, or will he learn a different way to be a man? The stakes are high for him. One misstep for a young black man in our culture, poet or not, can often result in tragedy. Anthony's poetry uses the idea of a quest--the quest of a young boy searching for the meaning of manhood.

The third leg of the tripod is Pearl, 17. Pearl, like Karina, feels trapped with her family in her "ghetto." But unlike Karina, she has a clear plan. She wants to go to Sarah Lawrence, the college of her dreams--where writers are nurtured and honored. Only 7 miles from her home in the Bronx, Sarah Lawrence might as well be on the moon. Pearl has to overcome a deep sense of shame and inadequacy. It is a terrifying challenge for her as even the most mundane actions connected to her college applications require that she dig deep and confront her fears. Pearl's poetry is profound and rhythmic. Like a jazz vocalist with a melodious voice, she sings her own brand of verbal blues.

What will happen to these kids? Will they find a way to articulate their dreams? Will that bring about meaningful change? This film is not only about the lives of three kids from the ghetto and their struggle to survive. It also explores the poet in all young people, the struggling artist in all of us, seeking to emerge.