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Sundance Film Festival

Documentary on rap lyrics used in criminal justice system to premiere at Sundance Film Festival

07 December 2023, 11:49 | Written by Tyler Damara Kelly

The 2024 Sundance Film Festival has announced its premiering titles, which include documentaries on Brian Eno, Luther Vandross, Devo, and how rap lyrics have played a role in court cases.

As We Speak, the forthcoming documentary directed by Emmy Award nominee J.M. Harper (Jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy, A Kid from Coney Island, and Down a Dark Stairwell) follows Bronx rap artist Kemba as he "explores the growing weaponisation of rap lyrics in the United States criminal justice system and abroad — revealing how law enforcement has quietly used artistic creation as evidence in criminal cases for decades."

The documentary's aim is for "shedding light on the intersection between the weaponization of rap lyrics and threats to freedom of speech." Kemba explores the origins of gangster rap, drill and more, and explores studies on racial bias in music. It also includes "candid conversations with influential artists like Killer Mike to reveal a profound history of targeting Black music and artists".

A synopsis on the Sundance website reads: "Harper’s seamless transitioning between restructured interviews, animated sequences, and imaginative reenactments reveals an audacious vision that also reflects the depth and interconnectedness of the issues at hand. Harper’s sophisticated and immersive journey merges style and substance, boldly weaving through a web of issues, and ultimately shining a light on the First Amendment, provoking crucial questions about whom it protects."

Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Sundance Film Festival 2024 will take place from 18-28 January. For more information, visit

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