Filmmaker Marc Levin, known for his documentaries exploring prison life, drug addiction, and street gangs, won the 1998 Sundance Film Festival grand jury prize when he made his feature dramatic directorial debut with this downbeat prison drama about a black poet jailed on minor drug charges. At "Dodge City," a Washington, D.C., housing project, streetwise Ray Joshua (Saul Williams), a marijuana dealer who writes poetry, sees his drug connection gunned down, winds up busted as a murder suspect, and is also charged with possession. Incarcerated in a tough D.C. jail, Ray is caught between two rival gangs, Thug Life and the Union, when both compete for his membership, and he becomes friends with the Union's leader, Hopha (Vibe columnist Bonz Malone), and Lauren (Sonja Sohn), a volunteer who runs the prison's creative writing workshop. Prison yard fights between the rival gangs prompt a poem of such passion that Hopha decides to bring his connections into play to arrange for Ray's bail. Back in Dodge City, Ray learns Big Mike was blinded yet is still alive, and he joins Lauren in a poetry session. Real-life poets Williams and Sohn wrote their own material. This film was produced by Levin, New York nightclub owner Henri Kessler, and Prison Life magazine founder Richard Stratton, who spent eight years in prison on marijuana charges. Stratton encountered Williams during a 1996 poetry reading at New York's Nuyorican Poets Cafe.
- MPAA Rating: R
- Genre(s): Drama,Foreign
- Run Time: 100min.
- Theatrical Release Date: 10/09/1998
- DVD Release Date: 03/09/1999
- Distributor(s): Trimark
- Themes: Writer's Life,Fighting the System,Going Straight,Inner City Blues
- Tone: Bleak,Earnest,Forceful,Gloomy,Literate,Talky,Tense
creative-writing, drug-dealer, false-accusation, murder, poetry, prison, workshop [class]
- Country of Origin: USA (10-23-1998)
- Language: English