The art of Shane Koyczan

ARTS_Hollywood theatre

‘Shut Up and Say Something’ film review

By Jerrison Oracion, Senior Columnist




Shane Koyczan is one of the most famous slam poets in the world since being featured in the opening ceremony of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. He got me interested in slam poetry, a genre I learned about in literature in secondary school. Most of Koyczan’s material is from his personal experiences, and we learn about his poetry in the documentary Shut Up and Say Something.

The documentary explores his work process of how he writes and performs his poems, and we see them come to life through archival material and new material specially made for the documentary. The film also shows Koyczan reuniting with his biological father Len Koyczan, who he had not seen in a very long time, through the magic of Facebook.

Filmmaker Melanie Wood gives us a personal look at Koyczan’s life in a film that is as great as the documentary about Lady Gaga, Gaga: Five Foot Two. Shut Up and Say Something shows more of Koyczan’s raw material. It also shows that Koyczan is able to not be too serious in life, and there are a lot of funny moments from him.

The first few minutes of the documentary show various people talking about how they appreciate his poetry, including David Suzuki. In some of Koyczan’s slam poetry, he adds music into the performance. This made me think that William Shatner might also be a slam poet because he puts music in his poetic material, though we could more accurately label what Shatner does as sing talking.

The scenes where Koyczan sees Len are very interesting because you expect that they will show private moments of Shane seeing his father for the first time. Instead, Shane interviews Len about his family and what Len was doing when he wasn’t in Shane’s life. We then see them doing various activities together including going to a convenience store and going fishing. What I learned from the documentary is that Shane has Indigenous heritage and that he likes to live in the most rural town that he could find. In the scenes when Koyczan does his poetry material, the audience reacts to make it seem as if it is a live audience track.

During a screening of the documentary at the Vancouver International Film Festival this year, both Shane and Len were there as special guests. At the Q&A in the screening, I asked both of them what was it like seeing each other again. Len told me that while Shane is his biological son, he does not call him son and he calls him Shane more often than son.

The documentary shows how Koyczan made slam poetry cool and presents an interesting way of seeing a relative that you did not know much about. Shut Up and Say Something airs this spring on Knowledge Network.