Folded Whispers2
Folded Whispers4
Folded Whispers3

Folded Whispers registers one remarcable night of poetry. How often events like this are held nowadays? Very rarely, so there is no doubt that it is worth to be on film for posterity. Yet it deserves more than a clumsy video captured by a cell phone (which by the way we cannot spot in the audience, fortunately). The author of the texts, Mark Anthony Thomas, with the codirection of Shane McFarland and Jordon Rooney, aspired for more than the basics. Therefore, the recital is not filmed exclusively with one camera positioned in the center of the audience in the theater, as usual, but with two more, one mostly on the left framing a close-up of the lecturer and the other one filming the spectators. 

Cast: Mark Anthony Thomas

Besides, the film goes further from the mere documentation of the happening. Some insertions bring the poet explaining specific texts, in scenes filmed in another setting. This resource breaks the continuity of the recital, and we feel that we are not watching the poems in full, which is not a problem, considering the prevalence of the movie over the texts. Therefore, we acknowledge that from the original works (the poems) another oeuvre emerges (the film). Considering this, the movie Folded Whispers presents non-diegetic music, one different for each poem, adding emotion to the writings, and also helping us to dive into the reflections provoked by them. And the author himself externalizes his feelings during his recitations, even creating a dramatical climax in this documental piece, when near the conclusion he speaks the words he wrote with tears in his eyes, while in the frame we see a woman in the background also weeping, in full empathy with the speaker. This framing couldn’t be planned beforehand, therefore it feels magical.


Nearly 15 years after his last featured performance, Mark Anthony Thomas revisits his poetic past with the documentary short film “Folded Whispers” at the historic Kelly Strayhorn Theater in Pittsburgh's East Liberty neighborhood.

In fact, it is crucial that the movie includes shots of the audience. Framing different attendants, along with general shots of the crowd, we can witness how immersive this experience was. People with different ages, genders, races, they are all together in tune, as in a catharsis. Although poems fundamentally are meant to be written, as reading allows the pausing to reflect about what is written, they also functions verbally as they are like music, meaning that they can evoke emotions apart from the rationalization of the orthography. So, two alternate additions could improve this film. In one hand, to allow the process of digesting the meanings in the texts, Folded Whispers could bring the pillow shots that the filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu used and which consisted of frames of less than one minute with aleatory things, like clothes in the wind, just to allow time for the viewer to think over the scene he has just watched. On the other hand, pushing to the free appreciation of the emotions in the poems, the film could bring images connected to the texts - for instance, the places that are mentioned, or the people - to facilitate the flow. 

Written & Produced by: Mark Anthony Thomas

Folded Whispers may not top the excellence of the poems themselves, but it is able to detach itself from them, as it is beyond the mere registry of what took place. It has a life of its own, and it even could have reached more magical moments like the one that we find near the conclusion.

Folded Whispers

2022, USA, 25 min

Directed by:  Mark Anthony Thomas, Shane McFarland, Jordon Rooney

Eduardo Kaneco

Film Critic, the founder of Leitura Filmica