It is with great sadness that we say farewell to independent filmmaker, poet, beloved teacher, activist and storyteller, Roland Legiardi-Laura who died April 20, 2016. We welcomed Roland into the ITVS family in 2008 with his documentary To Be Heard, which he co-directed and produced with Edwin Martinez, Deborah Shaffer, and Amy Sultan. To Be Heard tells the story of three high school poets from the Bronx who use their words to change their lives and impact the world. A gentle force of nature, Roland changed the lives of many through his storytelling, mentorship, and loving support.
With the assistance of ITVS and BAVC, and as an extension of the film To Be Heard, Roland created Power Poetry, the world’s first mobile poetry community for youth. At PowerPoetry.org poets share their work, comment and collaborate, get action guides, writing tips, and even college scholarships. As the website says: “Power Poetry isn’t just about poetry. It is about using poetry as a tool, a weapon, if you will, for personal change and social engagement.”In Roland’s own words:
“As a doc filmmaker, I have always produced my films with the intention of making the storytelling not only emotionally and narratively compelling but socially impactful as well…. [In just three short years, Power Poetry] has changed the lives of young writers in our country. They come from all 50 states…. They come from all backgrounds: The vast majority are young people from families of very modest means. They now have a national platform allowing them ‘to be heard’, and we have given voice to youth whose urgent and beautiful cries for personal transformation and societal change echo across the entire country.”
A mentor and believer, enthusiastic, patient, and wise, Roland made sure that young people led the charge behind the scenes as well. With a small, young but able team, Power Poetry has grown to a community of 250,000 poets who truly believe their words have power. Roland’s legacy lives on through Power Poetry and the teacher training Power Writers program (including this new free online course “How to Teach Poetry”). He created the To Be Heard Foundation to keep his work going. Roland will be deeply missed by many. On his Facebook page, students, colleagues, and friends left their heartfelt remembrances and tributes. From Power Writers co-founder Joseph Ubiles:
“…A warrior of the word has passed. an intellectual, humanist, classicist, modernist, dreamer and believer in the humanity of us all. A trickster rabbit, a sage. Returned now to starlight. Your place in our circle remains, a sly grin, a haunted chair, a demand for courage and compassion. A warrior recedes into the oceans of stars…."
From our blog
January 22, 2019
Today we are excited to announce that Hale County This Morning, This Evening and ITVS Open Call-funded Minding the Gap have been nominated for Best Documentary Feature for the 91st Oscars. The Oscars will be presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on February 24th. Minding the Gap, directed by first-time filmmaker Bing Liu, and Hale…
January 17, 2019
Going home can be challenging in many circumstances, but returning home to capture a nearby community in turmoil can add a whole new layer of complexity. Rita Baghdadi and Jeremiah Hammerling, directors of ITVS Open Call funded My Country No More, described those challenges and share some insight into capturing the rural community of Trenton, North…
December 11, 2018
It is with sadness that we say goodbye to filmmaker and educator Bill Siegel. Bill first became a part of the ITVS family with his award-winning film The Weather Underground, which he co-directed with Sam Green. It tells the story of former University of Chicago students who showed their outrage at the Vietnam War and racism in America by waging a low-level…