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TV Party - Documentaries

BEIJING PUNK {MVD} On the eve of the Beijing Olympics, director Shaun Jefford went in search of Punk Rock in China. I’m sure we all remember the furore around the event, with China’s human rights abuse and totalitarian police state method of ruling. So the premise of discovering something as potentially subversive as Punk Rock in such a social and political climate should make for interesting viewing.
After asking a few hipsters about real Chinese Punk and getting zero response, Jefford goes to the D-22 Club and encounters the club’s American booking agent, Nevin Domer. He, in turn, introduces the bands to Jefford, starting with MI SAN DAO and any ideas of something intelligent go out of the window. MI SAN DAO is a skinhead Oi! band with a vocalist who proudly tells us he broke his hand in the shower after punching the wall while shouting "SKINHEAD". He also loves MOTORHEAD, picks up the dog shit of his two dogs (which apparently enjoy 69ing) from his apartment’s floor while cooking and gets wasted on Codeine-heavy cough syrup. Thankfully, MI SAN DAO represent the only knuckle-dragging Neanderthal boneheads here.
The other two main bands featured are HEDGEHOG that do something like X gone Grunge and DEMERIT that fuses ANTI-FLAG with DEFIANCE and represent the band with most potential. The film takes us to DEMERIT’s digs that sees the band living together in one Punk house and who also regularly get wasted on alcohol. Other bands include JOYRIDE, P.K. 14 (that do an interesting TELEVISION kinda thing) and THE GAR.
The Olympics theme runs throughout the film with MI SAN DAO writing an eloquent ode (umm.. make that a pretty dull and negative bootboy noise) to the games and DEMERIT making some slightly more intelligent comments about them.
The film does get a bit directionless in the middle with live performance footage mixed up with MI SAN DAO getting wasted, followed by DEMERIT getting wasted and then some shy introspection from HEDGEHOG. The film regains the attention at a MI SAN DAO practice where, after downing a full bottle of Codeine syrup in one go, the vocalist says that, "Hitler was a good artist. He made some mistakes but no one person can be 100% bad." Huh?? Maybe it was just a language-barrier moment, but there was a distinct undercurrent of Hitler sympathy in his words. It’s a moment that made a rather unpleasant man and band morph into repulsion.
Jefford has done a decent job with his directing. The live footage, especially that of DEMERIT, P.K. 14 and HEDGEHOG is genuinely exciting stuff to watch. He has also captured the essence of each band in their own environs, particularly that of DEMERIT, as we hear near-by gunshots followed by sirens.
The film closes with a few post-film details including HEDGEHOG booking a US tour only to get their visas denied, the MI SAN DAO guitarist being imprisoned for drugs, Nevin’s home being repeatedly raided since the film (possibly due to his record label, Maybe Mars, issuing the DEMERIT album which openly attacked many aspects of the Chinese state) and DEMERIT securing a US release for their album and booking a tour complete with approved visas.
A compelling film to watch a few times with each successive viewing allowing the personalities of these Chinese Punks to emanate ever stronger. I think the politics of MI SAN DAO should’ve been analysed a bit more and P.K. 14 given more exposure at MI SAN DAO’s cost, but as it is, an interesting scene report put to film. (02.08.16)

LAST SHOP STANDING: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of the Independent Record Shop {Convex/ MVD} Now, this brought back a lot of memories and, while initially rather depressing, it does suggest there is light on the horizon for the humble independent record shop. This is a 50 minute documentary inspired by Graham Jones’ book of the same name and is broken down into three chapters.
Chapter One documents the rise of the independent record shop in the UK. It take us back to the 50s with those brittle 78rpm slabs before the 60s see the record take off. The importance of 70s Punk and specifically the independent scene it spawned is highlighted before the 80s saw a golden age of excess money at record labels and label ‘sales reps’ who literally gave records away to hype them up the charts. It’s an exciting, engaging chapter and one that made me think of all the great record shops I used to frequent in the UK.
Chapter Two turns the coin and looks at the fall of these shops. It focuses on the error of killing vinyl in favour of the CD, the diminished quality of late-80s vinyl and the two main negatives: MP3 downloads and Napster, and supermarkets selling CDs as a ‘Loss leader’ where their retail price was less than the trade price to the record shops. It’s a depressing chapter and one that is emphasized in the brutal statistic that in the 1980s there were over 2,200 independent record shops. By 2009, that number had fallen to just 269. During filming of the documentary, another store, Hudsons, closed its doors.
The final chapter sees a positive renaissance going on with the rebirth of independent stores thanks to acts like in-store performances and support of local scenes, Record Store Day and, most importantly, an apparent interest from today’s youth who have inherited their parents' record collections and now see the value of a physical product. It’s uplifting and laden with positivity, suggesting an actual upswing in new stores opening.
While the film interviews notables such as Paul Weller, Johnny Marr, Billy Bragg, Norman Cook and Clint Boon, the real stars are the record store owners who are featured. Stores from the South England through to Scotland were interviewed and all were run and owned by dynamic, energetic music obsessives who actually knew the importance of catering for something different, something local and something to be treasured. People who could advise what are good records. It was Johnny Marr who came out with some great quotes, including that an independent record store is not just a shop, but a resource - like a library - and one to be treasured. Secondly, that music and records is a passion, and an affliction!
There’s a wealth of extras too including an extension of chapter three, a hilarious chapter on Shop Talk and the official film trailer. It’s then filled out with extended interviews with Marr, Weller, Bragg and former LONG RYDER Sid Griffin.
From my perspective, this was quite a special film. It brought back the excitement of meeting your mates in town and arranging that meeting at a record shop. What’s more, it brought back the fact that we’d all get there early to try and grab the best items before anyone else in our group could. With the ease of Amazon, Discogs, Ebay and online buying of an instant record collection, I thought that sense of community was gone. Chapter Three proves it could be on its way back.
It could also be claimed that this is all about nostalgia and sure, nostalgia is a part of it. More specifically though, it’s about the future and its rousing prospects of a new generation of record shops and record buyers.
This is incredibly well put together and should be viewed by anyone who has an Ipod with about 2,000 random bits of digital sound but no actual albums, or records, or even CDs. Those people are missing a vital part in the equation of music enjoyment and this film, more than any other, demonstrates why. (25.11.15)

POSITIVE FORCE: MORE THAN A WITNESS {PM Press} Subtitled ‘30 Years of Punk Politics in Action’, this 69 minute documentary recounts the story of Washington DC’s branch of the Positive Force collective. Directed by Robin Bell, it expertly mixes vintage footage amidst the story of the activist collective (which exists to aid, from a DIY Punk perspective, issues such as sexism, homophobia, homelessness, globalization and more), this is both an informative and inspiring documentary.
Opening with footage from an infamous homeless march to City Hall, DC in 1993, the documentary constantly fuses sharp, flashing graphics of flyers and pictures into the narrative. It’s a stunning way to start matters and soon we see Penny Rimbaud of CRASS being interviewed. The spectre of CRASS, in terms of politics and ethics, is certainly evident in the early days of the collective. The very ideal of Punk and what Positive Force aims to be is encapsulated in a couple of quotes recounted by one of the Collective’s most vocal founders, Mark Anderson. These are Karl Marx’s "Revolution has to begin in the ruthless criticism of everything existing," and Mikhail Bakunin’s "The destructive urge is also a creative urge."
From there, the film looks at the Revolution Summer movement, the Positive Force House, FBI harassment and the importance of FUGAZI to the continued progression of the collective. What is also apparent is the importance of Anderson throughout the collective’s early stages. It’s stated there were debates about the two polarising polemics of those in the collective - the organise side and the ‘fuck-shit-up’ train of thought. It seems both existed in relative harmony, but Anderson managed to galvanise those ideals into one movement.
Riot Grrrl is discussed in depth and when Punk hit the mainstream the ethical contradictions between corporate Punk and the DIY ethos becomes prevalent. Matters reached a crux in 2005 when some of the founding Anarcho-influenced Punks left and moved to a bookshop, while those remaining with the collective allied itself with ‘We Are Family’ - a group of primarily senior citizens working toward ensuing DC’s elderly are cared for.
Bell’s direction has crammed a lot into the film and his mix of live performances (from the likes of FUGAZI, 7 SECONDS, RITES OF SPRING, SCREAM, SOULSIDE, BIKINI KILL, ANTI-FLAG) and interviews with the Collective and more notable names (Ian MacKaye, Jello Biafra, Dave Grohl, Danbert Nobacon, Ted Leo, Jeff Nelson) works incredibly well. Its narrative is concise and focused yet allows for a range of views from those directly involved, and often those views are contradictory from a personal perspective.
Besides the main film, there is a bounty of extras too. First up is another PF documentary but from 1991. It acts more like a prequel to the main film and lacks its continuity but it does accentuate the residents of the PF house at the time and includes an electrifying, intense FUGAZI performance. Then there is a documentary about the We Are Family group, followed by an outtake from the main film that discusses the debatable importance of Punk Voter that includes some footage of a riot that resulted from an ANTI FLAG gig. The final extra is some live performances from the likes of CHUMBAWAMBA, 7 SECONDS, FUGAZI, BEEFEATER and more.
The main documentary alone should inspire anyone who believes in the positivity of Punk and its power of personal and political change. For those who do not believe in that positivity - watch and be educated. Add on all those extras and you have a DVD that can be viewed many times with each viewing spawning new detail and successive inspiration. (11.10.15)

Hit HERE for material reviewed prior to 2015 including:
Brick And Mortar And Love, Clockwork Orange County, Fested: A Journey To Fest 7, In Heaven There Is No Beer, Punk In Africa