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By Phil Hall | September 27, 2008

In 2003, Bill Nevins, a Rio Rancho, New Mexico, high school creative writing teacher and faculty advisor for the school’s poetry club, was fired shortly after one of his students recited a poem that harshly criticized the war in Iraq. The firing of Nevins sparked a raucous debate on free speech within the schools.

That, by itself, would have been the measure of a worthwhile documentary. Sadly, “Committing Poetry in Times of War” took the Nevins case and ran wildly in the opposite direction. Rather than dissect the legal, moral and educational issues at hand, the bulk of the film is devoted to tiresome and irritating poetry recitations that take puerile aim at President Bush and his policies.

When one poet angrily declares: “If I were half the man George W. Bush was, I’d f*****g kill myself,” it is fairly obvious where this film’s heart and mind lay. Even worse, the film uses endless split screen effects, mixing news footage of members of the Bush Administration and the U.S. Army against the poets who rally to the Nevins case. This creates a full frontal assault on the senses, and not in a good way!

The resulting production is a confused endeavor that continually insists that freedom of speech is being yanked away under the guise of patriotism and national security. The fact such a film exists and is being made available to the general public would suggest otherwise.

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