Review: ‘Scared of Revolution’s’ profile of the Last Poets’ Umar Bin Hassan emphasizes mood

Umar Bin Hassan, right, in the documentary "Scared of Revolution."
(Film Movement)

The group of poets and musicians known as the Last Poets are largely considered to be a huge influence on the genesis of hip-hop as we know it today. Their spoken word poems detailing the realities of African American life predate Gil Scott Heron, with the first iteration of the group coalescing in 1968 at Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem. In his feature documentary debut, “Scared of Revolution,” Daniel Krikke crafts a melancholy portrait of one of the Last Poet’s most troubled members, Umar Bin Hassan.

Krikke’s film is rooted in the past as much as it is shot in the present. Bin Hassan, who struggled with an addiction to crack in the 1980s while performing with the Last Poets, is still standing, but barely. The film gives him a moment to reflect on his impoverished and abusive upbringing in Ohio, visiting the spaces of his childhood with his siblings.

While there are personal accounts from Last Poets associates such as Abiodun Oyewole, friends and family, and some history offered by music journalist and Def Jam PR man Bill Adler, Krikke’s film doesn’t offer much context for the lasting impact of the the Last Poets on culture. Rather, the film is a mood piece, a moment in time with Umar, and a tone poem, underscored by a few recording sessions of Umar performing his spoken word poetry. While “Scared of Revolution” offers intimacy with Umar, it is otherwise unmoored from the important cultural history it could have been.


‘Scared of Revolution’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour 12 Minutes

Playing: Starts Oct. 4, Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills