Film, poetry and politics collide at FilmBar in downtown Phoenix

ASU and FilmBar partner to show films about racism, immigration and more

Film, poetry and politics collide in a showing of “Motionpoems Season 8: Dear Mr. President” at FilmBar in downtown Phoenix.

The event is the result of a collaboration between FilmBar and ASU’s Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing. According to ASU's event page, this season was inspired by the 2017 Women’s March. The collection consists of short films based on poems about issues such as racism, immigration, women’s rights and more. 

The event will be held on Sept. 20 at 7:30 pm, and tickets cost five dollars.

Natalie Diaz, a poet and creative writing professor at ASU, inspired the film "Cranes, Mafiosos and a Polaroid Camera" by Tash Tung with her poetry. 

Tiana Clark, a poet whose poem was adapted to film in “The Ayes Have It” by Savanah Leaf, said she thinks the pairing of film and poetry creates a more engaging experience for viewers.

“I think it's interesting to kind of mix different genres,” Clark said. “Poetry is mostly consumed on the page, so pairing it with images has a really powerful effect for an audience.”

Clark, whose featured piece was inspired by the death of Trayvon Martin, said poetry provides a means to discuss real world issues with empathy.

“I think poems are conversations, and sometimes they're ways to wrestle with unanswered questions,” Clark said. “And so to have a tongue that brings a sense of clarity, or a sense of helping you understand how you feel about a difficult subject, brings a lot of comfort.”

Following the films, there will be a time for the audience to discuss the issues presented. 

Jacob Friedman, the communications specialist at the Virginia G. Piper Center, said he hopes the event provides a space for people to feel heard.

“We'll hopefully have a conversation where people feel like they are empowered or have agency,” Friedman said. “We live in a time where it is very easy to feel like there is no power or no agency on a national scale or even personally.”

Friedman said he hopes ASU students take advantage of the opportunity to see the work of some of the country’s most talented poets. The only other showings of "Motionpoems Season 8: Dear Mr. President" listed on the website were held in New York and Minneapolis. 

“Motionpoems is not something that gets screened very often — it is a really special opportunity," Friedman said. "At a space like ASU, where so much is always going on, I think that it's easy to forget about all of the opportunities and the privilege that we have to enjoy.”

Jason Bryant, an English instructor at ASU, said poetry allows audiences a closer look into other people’s experiences.

“One thing that is important about poetry is that it really does get to what everyday life is like,” Bryant said. “It's a person trying to put down what experiences they have, both in the material world and in their own consciousness.”

Bryant said poetry brings a human aspect into political debate in a way that mere discussion cannot mimic.

“There is an expression: 'the personal is political,'” Bryant said. “I think poetry is really the genre most capable of describing what it feels like to be a human being. You can't necessarily reach that with debate.”

Reach the reporter at and follow @JacobBenevento on Twitter.

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