South By So Much Punk
Pussy Riot, 'The Punk Syndrome,' and – count 'em – two docs about Green Day: Yep, punk is having a moment in the movies
There's a wealth of punk docs at SXSW this year, spanning the 40-year existence of the genre and spotlighting a few international scenes. A spiritual sister to The Punk Singer, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer documents six months in the life of three Pussy Riot members who were sentenced to seven years in prison after performing a punk prayer, later deemed an act of "hooliganism," in a Moscow church in February 2012. We most often saw images of the three women – Maria Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova – behind bars or glass, or on trial. Directors Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin take the time to get each woman's backstory, and give us a sense of Russia's feminist and activist history.
Over in Finland, The Punk Syndrome follows the four members of the band Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät, each of whom is developmentally disabled. They sing about the classic punk themes – hatred of rules, the plight of being misunderstood – and the film is a nice balance of humor and pathos, as we look into their day-to-day lives.
The Belfast punk scene of the late Seventies is the focus of biopic Good Vibrations, the diary of glass-eyed madman Terri Hooley (Richard Dormer) and his record store, Good Vibrations. He later started a label of the same name, releasing bands like the Undertones and shaping Belfast's musical community at a time when political conflict paralyzed Northern Ireland. Dormer's embodiment of Hooley's idealism and manic optimism is spot-on.
Detroit trio Death – brothers David, Bobby, and Dannis Hackney – bypassed the R&B of their hometown and embraced political punk in the early Seventies, providing the connective tissue for bands yet to come. They get the doc treatment with A Band Called Death, tracing their rediscovery via the Internet generation and their gripping family history (the Hackney brothers were preacher's sons, which no doubt informed their rhetoric).
Does the world need two separate Green Day documentaries? Probably not, but nevertheless they exist and make their debut at SXSW. Broadway Idiot follows singer Billie Joe Armstrong's unlikely ascent from mainstream punk commodity to Broadway star with the musical American Idiot; ¡Cuatro! captures the 2012 studio recording of albums ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tré!, as the band tries to recapture the magic after American Idiot's international success.
See sxsw.com/film for film showtimes.