In the spirit of “Hoop Dreams,” the riveting vérité documentary “To Be Heard” tracks three young friends in a Bronx high school whose lives are altered through a poetry workshop bent on teaching the power of self-expression.
With few outside resources to fall back on, the film’s main subjects — Anthony Pittman, Karina Sanchez and Pearl Quick — have dubbed themselves “the tripod,” figuring their best hope lies in mutual support. As graduation nears, that too is tested. For how well this finely crafted work captures the pressures of inner-city poverty, single-parent families and abusive relationships, one of its strengths lies in its ability to also gracefully locate the drama in filling out a college application.
Neither preachy nor self-consciously “uplifting,” the film serves as dispassionate witness to hard lives, hard-earned successes, the strengths and limitations of friendship and the heartbreak of watching loved ones make bad choices, respectfully documenting these legitimately talented writers and performers’ struggles to use their gifts to redefine their lives.
“To Be Heard.” No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes. At Laemmle’s Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.