As the current cultural conversation suggests, representation is very important. And, in that mission to get more diverse faces on screens and in books, rising literary star Jason Reynolds is a veritable rock star. He’s a hip and insightful emissary for an often shunned or mocked artform: young adult fiction.
He’s proof that the genre is far more than just weepy adolescent vampire romance or far off fantasy and science-fiction. Rather, Reynolds focuses on realism, telling the stories of people like him and those he grew up with. It seems simple on a macro level, but it’s something that has a profound impact in practice for both his individual readers and the classification of literary youth fiction as a whole.
Granted, it’s somewhat unfair to put so much weight on Reynolds shoulders. But, as director and cinematographer Kristian Melom’s lovely portrait doc makes clear, Reynolds is more than up for the challenge. This lyrical film not only delves into his process and inspiration (e.g. the common topic of short profile docs), but also broaches larger ruminations on the importance of reading and writing as a whole.
It becomes a reminder that art can be a great driver of empathy, and through that empathy, comes understanding and compassion. It feels a bit pollyannaish, I realize, but stories really do have the power to change the world. And, after you finish this engrossing portrait doc, it’s easy to see how Reynolds is making a difference one story at a time, reaching kids by telling his truth.
Continue reading DEAR DREAMER on Short of the Week.
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