Girls Rock – The Movie
Welcome to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls in Portland, Oregon. It’s a place where 8-18 year old girls go to rock out, and questions need to be asked. Will bouncy, bunny-loving Laura find bandmates who’ll share her love of death metal? And what of the eight year old who’s looking to Hendrix-lick her guitar (which is bigger than she is) and play it behind her head at any opportunity? She won’t be constrained by rhythm or melody, and she only writes songs about her dog Pippi. She says she’ll stop when she’s written 14 of them. Will she be able to work in a group whose members do not also have a dog called Pippi?
Girls Rock! The Movie follows the epic journey of young girls who have been empowered to make loud music. Given the opportunity to bash the drums, wail like a banshee and take up space, these girls jettison gender stereotypes like old hats on their way to a joyous final concert that will form one of the (hopefully many) jewels in their life’s crown.
Trailer for Girls Rock – the Movie
The documentary opens with opens with the girls milling around, engaged in the unenviable task of trying to form a rock band with total strangers. This task is difficult for everyone, including an 18 year old who’s been passed from children’s home to children’s home, and has coped by bullying others, but is looking to change. Her week at Girls Rock Camp will be the first time she ever picks up a bass guitar. Can she keep her cool in a band where all the girls are considerably younger than herself?
Once all the girls at the camp have formed themselves into bands, their next step will be to choose their name. “Do you like PLAID?” screams one girl. What’s that? “PEOPLE LYING AROUND IN DIRT.”
The camp coaches are a seasoned bunch that hold the centre in this maelstrom of self-discovery. They point out that the camp is as much for their joy as for the inspiration of those attending, and they are well-placed to ensure this is a safe environment. And it’s great to see some seriously epic legends supporting the girls on their journey, too. None other than Beth Ditto of The Gossip is on hand to give them voice coaching, and they’re treated to a sumptuously uplifting and terrifying performance from awe-inspiring rock genius and iconic Riot Grrrl Kathleen Hanna (Le Tigre, Bikini Kill).
Now that the girls have everything they need to discover new ways to channel their energy through music, the resulting catharsis can come out in all manner of ways. There’s Palace, who is quiet and icily composed… until she howls into the microphone like a clowder of cats. And bites a bandmate, and punches the keyboardist in the face. “She thinks a lot about her marketability,” says her mum. You’ll also meet the drummer in Palace’s band, who loses herself in the music so deeply that she crawls beneath her drums and plays them with just her head poking out of the top, watching with narrowed eyes, looking for all the world like a miniature Frank Zappa.
Warm-hearted and life-affirming, Girls Rock – which finishes with a fantastic Showcase Finale – is a feminist’s dream, interspersed with thoughtful statistics relating to girls achieving and not achieving. It’s also everything a good music documentary should be. You’ll see an abundance of egos clashing, lessons being learned, heartbreak and salvation – all washed down with music made with passion. You’ll have thoughtfulness, gaspingly funny moments and candid behaviour at all times. What shines through most is a riotous love for music and its power to change people’s lives. And it turns out there’s nothing more fun than watching little girls making music that is very loud indeed.