Street-poet documentary has many Baltimore connections

The Baltimore Sun

In a scene from the documentary "A Place of Truth," opening Thursday at the Creative Alliance, Abi Mott sits behind a small desk on a city street corner with a sign that reads: "Name a price. Pick a subject. Get a poem."

She is greeted by a customer and after a quick exchange of money; she enters words on a vintage typewriter. Moments later, Mott hands her customer a short poem and smiles. "This is what she wrote for me," says the customer, eyes filled with tears, as she begins to read the lyrics out loud.

The scene perfectly showcases Mott, a 21-year-old street poet, and her reasons for starring in the inspirational documentary — she hopes to encourage her audience to find a profession that allows them to not abandon doing what they love.

"There are more options in this world," said Mott in a phone interview. "This world is so big and beautiful, you don't have to live within the confines of what you think you have to do."

"A Place of Truth" follows Mott to her hometown, Lancaster, Pa., as well as to New York City, New Orleans and the San Francisco Bay Area from 2011 to August 2013. Director Barrett Rudich, 66, who often works with a Baltimore-based crew, first encountered Mott in 2011 busking in his hometown of Portland, Ore. He said he immediately knew he had found the subject of what could be a great film and set off to Baltimore to pitch the idea to his team. Rudich called Baltimore "the base camp" for creating "A Place of Truth"

By combining interviews, readings of her poetry, personal moments and a short display of the cities in which he traveled with Mott, Rudich strove to introduce the world to a subculture of street poetry that he had not known existed.

"I had never seen anyone type on a sidewalk like that and make poems in that way," said Rudich in a phone interview "I hope after watching the film, people will find a way to be authentic and as true to themselves as they can be."

Rudich has been directing and producing for more than 30 years, and his passion for film first led him to Baltimore in 2009 after working on instructional videos for the American Red Cross. Although the client was based in D.C., Rudich said they chose to shoot in Baltimore for its "film-friendly" reputation. Upon completion of that project, Rudich developed a solid production and post-production team in the city.

"As a place, Baltimore is a great city with a big heart," said Rudich.

Right after he finalized plans with Mott to make a documentary, Rudich traveled to Baltimore to collaborate with director of photography Michael O'Leary and associate producer Rehya Young. Rudich later brought the film back to Baltimore for its finishing touches in the editing room.

His Baltimore connections show up in small ways in the film. Rudich uses Wye Oak's song "I Don't Feel Young" in an intimate scene between Mott and her friend Ashley.

"A Place of Truth," which won the Audience Award for best feature film at the Northwest Filmmakers Festival, is Rudich's first feature, and he said he will consider Baltimore as a location or at least one of the locations for his next big project.

"Baltimore … it's my second home," said Rudich. "But it's really my first home in my heart."

Mott is still pursuing the life of a traveling poet. Although most of her busking takes place on busy city streets, she also writes poems at parties, festivals and other events.

"It might grow into something else, it might take a different path, but I'm always going to be writing one way or another," said Mott. "I don't see myself stopping any time soon. That would be like cutting off an arm or a leg."

If you go

"A Place of Truth" screens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Creative Alliance, 3134 Eastern Ave. Tickets are $9-$12. Abi Mott will be busking at the Creative Alliance at 5:30 p.m. Thursday as well as after the screening.

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