It is an unlikely holiday selection, Giving Voice. However, the feel-good vibe that stays with you after the film is done is on par for the Christmas movie genre. It’s actually a documentary that follows students from across the country as they compete in a monologue competition. The special part of Giving Voice is that these are not just any students and the competition is not like any other.
The late August Wilson was Black playwright who adeptly captured Black culture and life in America. His works include Fences and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which stars Viola Davis and premieres on Netflix Dec. 18. In addition to capturing life, Wilson injected his plays with monologues that still today carry a significance with people everywhere, especially those in the Black community. In one theatrical speech, Wilson can depict that struggle Black women have to be seen. Another may describe the plight of Black men in America in a way no other words can. To the students, these words are timeless and the key to wat could be their future in performing arts.
All of the students ion the competition are performers and not all are Black. However, they are all familiar with economic struggles and trying to imagine a career in the arts when their community’s may not support one. Some do come from performing arts schools, having practiced and proven themselves beyond talented enough for the positions. Here is a clip where executive producer Viola Davis and others talk about the contestants and how they were gathered.
Giving Voice stays with these students exploring their passion for the arts while showing just how Wilson’s words are still relevant in their lives. Viewers will find it easy to make friendly predictions about who will win the competition. Some of the most riveting moments will be those performances. These students are talented. Many of them will find themselves on a Broadway stage someday, thankfully discovered by this competition and the Netflix documentary.
Another important note to make about this competition is that it honors the African American Vernacular (AAVE) and encourages students to use it. All too often, speech coaches will advise students to drop the AAVE, encouraging the codeswitch. In Giving Voice, the codeswitch is only used to amplify or illustrate a point. It is a rhetorical tool and not a competition requirement.
You can stream Giving Voice now on Netflix. The film also includes a new song by John Legend.
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