In Romeo Is Bleeding, an urban adaption of Shakespeare’s classic text encourages dialogue to overcom
The Film Society of Summit announces the first area screening of Romeo Is Bleeding, a documentary about youth in a violence-afflicted area who mount an urban adaption of Romeo and Juliet as a way to create positive change in their community through self-expression.
In Romeo Is Bleeding, we meet Donté Clark, a young artist who lives in Richmond, CA. Donté, who transcends the violence in his hometown by writing poetry about his experiences, uses his voice to inspire those around him. The film follows Donté and others as they mount an urban adaption of Shakespeare’s classic text with the goal of starting an effective dialogue about violence in the city.
This powerful new documentary was produced by Michael Klein, a 2005 graduate of Millburn High School. Director, Jason Zeldes, a friend from USC Film School in Los Angeles approached Michael in 2012 to help bring this important story to life as producer. Romeo Is Bleeding is Jason’s feature directorial debut and Michael’s first feature documentary film. Jason brought his background in documentary editing which includes working on the Academy AwardÒ winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom.
Jason Zeldes was introduced to the subject by Molly Raynor, a co-founder of the Richmond organization RAW Talent. Immediately drawn to what the organization was doing, Jason traveled to Richmond to do exploratory filming and he quickly realized there was a whole story to tell about the use of art to help young people in this underserved Bay Area community overcome violence. Jason reached out to film school classmates including Michael to collaborate with him on the project.
In the opening lines of the film, Donté reads the play's introduction with news footage of Richmond turf wars playing dramatically in the background. He recalls being bored the first time he had to read Romeo and Juliet, before seeing how its drama reflected his own.
After he discovered a gift for writing and spoken word performance, Clark was recruited by teacher Molly Raynor and together they started RAW Talent. The film follows a year in that program's life, as Clark helps his students reshape the saga of Montagues and Capulets in their own image — scrapping original characters and language but retaining its core.
Romeo is Bleeding was financed with the backing of a number of grants including the Sundance Documentary Film Fund, the San Francisco Film Society, and California Humanities. The production was selected to participate in the prestigious Sundance Institute’s Creative Producing Summit in Utah.
Michael who now lives in Los Angeles, graduated from USC Film School in 2009 with a degree in Cinema-Television Production. In agreeing to help Jason to bring the film to fruition, Michael primarily sought to make a good film and to tell a good story. It looks like both were accomplished. Romeo is Bleeding has screened at film festivals throughout the country and has won 20 awards including Best Feature Documentary and the Jury Prize at the prestigious St. Louis International Film Festival.
Michael decided to study film when he was 10 years old after being an extra on a fellow Millburn High School alum’s NYU thesis film. Filmmaking was a hobby for Klein to that point, constantly playing with his family’s camcorder, but being on the set of that student film made him realize that his hobby could be so much more than just that.
More recently, Michael executive produced the narrative feature Permission. Filmed in New York, Permission will have its world premier at the Tribeca Film Festival in April.
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