Broken City Poets | Documentary

Broken City Poets

“Broken City Poets” chronicles the lives of four high school students who are challenged to use poetry and journalism to make sense of their bankrupt, gang-ridden city.

Before Detroit, there was Stockton. The California town of nearly 300,000 was the first large American city to file for bankruptcy and at one time was the nation’s foreclosure capital. Forbes magazine named it one of the most miserable places in the U.S.

I initially agreed to film one high school poetry workshop that the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) was running with Youth Speaks in Stockton. CIR is a nonprofit news organization and Youth Speaks is a youth poetry group. The idea was to see what would happen if teenagers were given deeply reported, fact-based journalism about their city’s bankruptcy and then asked to make slam poetry with it. I met some incredibly talented and disarming teenagers, most of whom had experienced an amount of violence, drug abuse and poverty most adults never see in their lifetime. The kids were also brave enough to put their pain onto paper and share it with their peers. That first trip turned into many trips and a year and a half later, the result was Broken City Poets.

Directed, filmed and edited by Ariane Wu
Produced by Ariane Wu, José Vadi, Michael I Schiller and Stephen Talbot
Sound Mix by David Sandwisch and Christopher Galipo
Music by Marcus McCauley

Reveal TV
California Film Institute
Brave New Voices Poetry Festival, Philadelphia
United Nations Association Film Festival
Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, Best Short Documentary nominee
American Documentary Film Festival
Vail Film Festival
Global Peace Film Festival
Oakland Underground Film Festival
San Francisco Independent Film Festival
UN|Published Pop-up Film Festival
RUN DSM’s 2nd Annual Teen Summit
Colorado College Max Kade Theatre
Allied Media Conference, Detroit, Michigan


PBS Newshour
Nieman Lab
The Stanford Daily
San Francisco Chronicle
Metroactive Life
Beyond Chron
Youtube and the Art of Investigative Reporting – Sundance Film Festival