Thursday, May 31, 2007
While in Seattle over the weekend, I saw a really good documentary about the Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls called "Girls Rock." I knew the camp existed because of my fanaticism for Sleater-Kinney — Carrie Brownstein has been involved with it from the beginning — but I knew little else.
At the week-long camp, girls form bands, get instruction from musician volunteers and special guests like Brownstein and Beth Ditto of the Gossip and write an original song, which they perform at a showcase in Portland at the end of the week.
The documentary follows girls ranging in age from 7 to 17 as they go through the universal bonding and strife of being in a band.
The documentary, made by two first-time filmmakers, superbly shows how being in a band frequently mimics the drama of being an adolescent, let alone being a girl, and how being in a band also helps deal with those issues. The movie also reminds music fans that, for all the cool that a band exudes, it starts with someone standing up and suggesting a lyric or a riff, and that takes more courage than most people have. Seeing these girls, many of whom had little musical background, learn an instrument or suggest lyrics for the first time in a group of strangers was powerful.
The movie doesn't beat you over the head with these points. Like a good documentary, it follows a handful of the girls through the week and lets the themes rise up as a result. There are some montages in between showing statistics about girls and growing up that don't really work. While we may not know the specific number of girls who are pressured to diet or how much sex is on MTV, we know the numbers are big and where that influence fits into the importance of something like the rock camp.
The movie, which played at the Seattle International Film Festival, just got a distributor and will be shown in wider release this fall. No dates or cities have been named yet, but the movie is a joy for casual music fans and a must-see for music junkies.
The camp itself is a nonprofit group that doesn't turn away any camper if she can't pay the registration fee. It raises money from ticket sales at the showcase, and there's even a Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Women, a fundraiser that gives grown-ups the same experience.
For more info:
Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls homepage
"Girls Rock" documentary homepage
"Girls Rock" on Myspace, with songs from some of the bands