Directed by Kevin Kerslake
The new Joan Jett documentary pits Jett's life against the male-dominated music industry. In the '70s, Jett was a breakthrough artist who wrote edgy and straight-ahead rock tunes and played guitar Her image and music resisted the male gaze.
With her band The Runaways, and later with The Blackhearts, Jett inspired rock musicians from the '80s onward and greatly influenced the Riot Grrrl movement of the '90s. Jett was attractive and fine featured, but refused to torque herself for male approval, clad androgynously in leather or denim with a shiny black shag haircut.
At first, the music industry kept the focus on the blonde, sex-kitten image of Cherie Currie, who was the Runaways' lead singer, while Jett and her guitar were relegated to the background. After The Runaways broke up in the late '70s, the band was treated like a novelty and Jett received little encouragement from the industry. In the 1980s, Jett fronted the Blackhearts. When Jett covered the love song "Crimson and Clover" in 1981, her dusky rock vocals were addressed to the female pronoun, a transgressive and bold move.
The industry may have spurned her, but Jett refused to be kicked down, not only resurfacing but also producing and distributing her own records.
Jett is now a legend. The film includes interviews with a number of artists who credit Jett for paving the way, including Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill), Debbie Harry (Blondie) and Alison Mosshart (The Kills). Written by Joel Marcus, Bad Reputation is good documentary that speaks to an era.
Directed by Steve Loveridge
Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam, also known as M.I.A., is a British rap artist who creates sounds that cross hip hop with dance hall, jungle and world music. The daughter of a Sri Lankan Tamil resistance leader, her family was displaced multiple times and went into hiding before immigrating to London as refugees.
Arulpragasam grew up listening to rap in south London in an environment of racism, and later attended London's Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design where she was one of few students of colour.
In Loveridge's film, we learn of Arulpragasam's experiences as a woman who fights media misperceptions about her music and about the continuing turmoil in Sri Lanka Over time, M I A 's songs of resistance won her nominations for an Academy Award and three Grammys.
Throughout Arulpragasam's 16-year music career, her success has intersected with the political situation in Sri Lanka She has accused the Sri Lankan army of genocide against the Tamils, while the music industry encourages her to write about fluff. In 2011, the NFL sued her for millions for extending the middle finger to the camera while performing "Give Me All Your Luvin'" with Madonna and Nicki Minaj at the Super Bowl Halftime Show.
Arulpragasam, who has a 10-year-old son, continues to create on her terms "I need to keep the immigrant story in all my work because that's what I'm trying to make sense of," she says. Matangi/ Maya/M.I.A. won the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.
Directed by Crystal Moselle
Directed by Jasmin Mozaffari
These two new films about relationships between women unfold stories of love and betrayal, about growing up and the lessons learned.
Firecrackers by Jasmin Mozaffari depicts a young woman and her best friend who dream of escaping to New York City Skate Kitchen by Crystal Moselle is about a young loner in New York and her friendships with a group of female skateboarders.
Skate Kitchen has moments of genuine cinematic mastery, with glorious shots of skateboarders exploding through flocks of pigeons in NYC, as well as images of young women hanging tough on the streets, shredding and bleeding In both, time moves so slow that it seems to melt on the screen, and the experience of NYC seems like an impossible dream--whether you get there, or you are there.
In both films, the incongruity of human behaviour and the distortions of time and place take on the properties of a fairy tale. Time feels protracted and elliptical when you don't have an adult's neurological development, when drugs are involved or when getting a ride anywhere becomes too expensive and far away.
The energy and authenticity of cinema verite infuses the spirit of the two films--the shaky, hand-held cameras, natural lighting and *real* uncensored talk Verite can give film the surreal immediacy of childhood and sometimes an amazing moment in the cinematic world can overshadow and even make sense out of what might belie believability in the real world.
BY MAUREEN MEDVED