To Be Heard

A look at a unique poetry class in the Bronx for at-risk kids where anything could be said or shared.

Film Signature Image
Premiere Date
January 1, 2012
60 minutes
Funding Initiative
Open Call
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2011 Seattle International Film Festival-Audience Award, Best Documentary
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    2011 Seattle International Film Festival-Special Jury Prize
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    2011 San Diego Latino Film Festival-Best Documentary
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    2011 Sarasota Film Festival-Audience Award, Best Documentary
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    2011 DOC NYC - New York Documentary Festival-Audience Award
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    2011 DOC NYC - New York Documentary Festival-Grand Jury Prize
  • Producer/Director

    Roland Legiardi-Laura

    Roland Legiardi-Laura’s first documentary Azul won nine international awards. He has received a host of fellowships and grants from the New York State Council on the Arts, The New York Foundation for the Arts, The NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, The Rockefeller Fund, and The Andy Warhol Foundation. Besides directing and producing films, Show more Legiardi-Laura is a published poet and has taught in public schools, prisons and senior citizens homes for years. He created from scratch the first traveling troupe of performance poets, Words to Go. He is one of the directors of a world-renowned arts institution, The Nuyorican Poet’s Café, where he created a unique film development program called The Fifth Night, in which he produced 213 weekly screenplay readings. Forty of those scripts were produced as feature films. He is developing a documentary about the secret history of American schooling — entitled Weapons of Mass Instruction. Show less


    Edwin Martinez

    Edwin Martinez is a Bronx-born filmmaker who recently completed his first feature documentary To Be Heard, winner of both the Metropolis Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at the DOC NYC film festival. As a cinematographer he has worked on several feature-length fiction and documentary films including Rachel Is, Leave No Soldier, Las Marthas, and What Alice Found Show more (winner, Special Jury Prize, Sundance). After graduating from the SUNY Purchase Film Conservatory as a Gates Millennium Scholar, he earned a Master's in Education Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and has worked as an instructor in various youth media programs in Boston and New York City. Edwin is developing a new feature-length project while producing shorts for educational, government and non-profit organizations. He also likes to bake. Show less


    Deborah Shaffer

    Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Deborah Shaffer began making social issue documentaries as a member of the Newsreel Collective in the '70s. She co-founded Pandora Films, a woman’s production company, which produced How About You? and Chris and Bernie. In 1979 she made the labor history documentary The Wobblies (New York Film Festival). During the Show more '80s, Shaffer focused on war and human rights in Latin America, directing Nicaragua: Report from the Front; Witness to War (Academy Award® winner, Best Documentary – Short Subjects); Fire from the Mountain (New York and Sundance Film Festivals; POV); and Dance of Hope (Prix d'Or, FIPA, Cannes and Sundance Film Festivals). Shaffer was one of the first filmmakers to work in post-Sept. 11 New York City. From the Ashes – 10 Artists (Sundance and Tribeca Film Festivals; Cinemax) captures the impact the attacks had on 10 downtown New York artists, followed a year later by From the Ashes - Epilogue (Tribeca Film Festival). She is the executive producer of the short documentary, Asylum, which played at the Sundance Film Festival, Human Rights Watch, won Best Documentary at Aspen Shortsfest and was nominated for an Academy Award®. In addition to her work as a director of independent documentaries, Shaffer has directed numerous programs for public television, including Secrets Underground (Christopher Award, Emma Award), Art:21 – Art for the 21st Century (Emmy Nomination) and Ladies First: The Women of Rwanda (Emmy Award, Sigma Delta Chi Award, Cine Golden Eagle). She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and grants from the NEH, NEA, and NYSCA. She was awarded the Irene Diamond Lifetime Achievement Award by the Human Rights Watch Film Festival. Show less


    Amy Sultan

    Amy Sultan is the director of the Power Writers Program at Nuyorican Poet’s Café. Amy co-founded the Power Writers Program in 2001 with Roland Legiardi-Laura and Joe Ubiles. From 1997 through 2008 Amy was a co-executive cirector of the Early Stages Program, an arts education organization. In 1997, as executive producer of the Nantucket Film Festival, Amy Show more steered the fledging festival through its crucial second year. From 1990 -1994, she was director for film in the New York City Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre, and Broadcasting. Amy is a former business agent for theatrical unions in New York City, where she represented designers and performers in the entertainment industry. In 1987, as a collaboration with Trident Technical College in Charleston, S.C., she created a technical training program in film and theater arts for minority young adults. Over the past 25 years, Amy has served as a community advocate for children’s arts programs and as a lobbyist for the performing arts for various organizations. Show less

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    The Film

    If you don't learn how to write your own life story, someone else will write it for you. To Be Heard is the story of three high-school students who find their way into a dangerous poetry workshop that does not teach the "Roses Are Red" kind of poetry. Rather, it teaches the kind of poetry that changes lives and that only comes from the inside out.

    Power Poetry in Motion

    Inspired by the documentary, Power Poetry is the world’s first mobile poetry community for youth. Employing the latest hand-held technology, it enables young poets to use text, audio, images, and video to express themselves and connect their voices with urgent social movements. (Text POEM to 41411.) Young writers can compose, compare, collaborate, and comment, as they share their poetry on a global scale using the transformative power of language to turn social networks into poetry slams.