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Short Film: Tanabe

What’s it like to watch a man get beaten to death? Hopefully, not many of us will ever have to witness such a thing. But, we can experience that horror vicariously through the vivid verbal imagery painted by L.A. poet Doctor Mongo in the short film Tanabe, directed by Michael Rouse.

The Underground Film Journal met Doctor Mongo on the bus one day near his downtown stomping grounds. Although he struck up a friendly conversation, he did not reveal his spoken word background but became very interested when we revealed our film background. (He said he was on the lookout for a videographer.)

He only told us his name upon parting, whereupon — being the Internet snoops that we are — we found this in-depth article about his fascinating life and discovered the powerful film embedded above.

Black and white photo of Doctor Mongo, an African American man, sitting in a tenement room

The film is shot beautifully by Rouse and cinematographer Tetsuro Saiki. Doctor Mongo himself is particularly strikingly lit and there’s a good match between his speaking and the recreated action. The film places us vividly right in Doctor Mongo’s world, a world that’s probably unfamiliar to the viewer, but all too real for the poet and the people he interacts with daily. It’s a world that exists, but rarely seen on film.

Doctor Mongo does have a website as well, if any videographers or anybody else wishes to check it out.


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