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Every Child is Born a Poet - The Life & Work of Piri Thomas

A 59' documentary directed in 2003 by Jonathan Robinson

An incendiary mix of documentary, poetry, storytelling, drama, and performance, this film explores the life and work of Piri Thomas (born in 1928) the Afro-Cuban - Puerto Rican author of the classic autobiographical novel Down These Mean Streets (1967).

The film traces Thomas’ path from childhood to manhood in New York City’s Spanish Harlem, from the 1930's through the 1960’s - his parents’ immigrant experience, home life during the Great Depression, his membership in barrio youth gangs, his struggle to come to terms with his mixed-racial identity, his travels as a teen-age merchant marine, his heroin addiction, his notorious armed robbery of a Greenwich Village nightclub, his six years spent in prison, and then his emergence as a writer. Thomas’ coming-of-age story is counter-pointed with verité scenes of his on-going work of forty-five years as an educator and activist empowering marginalized and incarcerated youths.

A stylized, genre-spanning production, the film includes rare archival footage & still photographs and provocative mixed-media artwork. Pulsating with an original Afro-Cuban Latin Jazz score, the film is a riveting portrait of a life lived through struggle, self-discovery, and transformation.

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