Throughout the year, London is celebrating its punk heritage with a series of exhibitions, gigs and events looking at the impact of punk rock on music, art, fashion, culture and politics. Sounds good, but what if you’re nowhere near the capital?
That’s why, over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been hosting our very own tribute to punk, by highlighting some of the greatest documentaries ever made.
ANOTHER STATE OF MIND
(1984, 77 mins)
In the early 80s, life in an independent punk band was not for the faint of heart. This cult classic follows Social Distortion and Youth Brigade on their ill-fated 1982 tour of North America. Tensions mount and members leave when their money runs out while fixing an ailing van. Luckily, directors Adam Small and Peter Stuart were on hand to catch every wretched moment.
THE CLASH: WESTWAY TO THE WORLD
(2000, 107 mins)
Filmmaker Don Letts was the manager of London clothing store Acme Attractions, whose early customers included Bob Marley, Debbie Harry, and Joe Strummer. From there, he became the resident DJ at The Roxy (a key London nightclub during the eruption of punk) and in 1978, used his earnings to fund his first film, The Punk Rock Movie – which featured The Clash, Sex Pistols and Generation X. On Westway To The World, Letts combines rare and unseen footage from the band’s US dates in 1982 with new interviews to give a detailed overview of their rise and eventual fall. The film would go on to receive a Grammy for Best Longform Music Video in 2003.
CRASS: THERE IS NO AUTHORITY BUT YOURSELF
(2006, 70 mins)
Dutch documentary maker Alexander Oey looks at the history of anarcho-punks Crass in this inspiring film. Mixing archive footage and present-day interviews with former members Steve Ignorant, Penny Rimbaud and Gee Vaucher, There Is No Authority But Yourself examines the band’s political ideologies, audacious campaigns and projects at Dial House, their Essex commune – which includes constructing compost toilets and living off the land, taking the whole DIY ethos to a level Ian MacKaye could only dream of.
WE JAM ECONO: THE STORY OF THE MINUTEMEN
(2005, 91 mins)
Minutemen are perhaps most recognisable for performing the Jackass theme (Corona from their 1984 classic Double Nickels on the Dime) – but try to ignore the memory of Steve-O setting off fireworks from his anus. Tim Irwin’s documentary chronicles the San Pedro trio’s short-lived career from their DIY beginnings until the death of singer and guitarist D. Boon in 1985, following a van crash. With fanboy praise provided by the likes of Flea, Ian MacKaye and Thurston Moore, We Jam Econo is a testament to the band’s legacy and will choke up even the most cynical of punks.
THE PUNK SYNDROME
(2012, 85 mins)
This documentary follows Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät, a Helsinki band who formed in a centre for adults with learning disabilities. Jukka Kärkkäinen and Jani-Patteri Passi’s award-winning film charts the quartet’s rise from obscurity to becoming a household name in Finland; the band went on to represent their country in the Eurovision Song Contest 2015 and even appeared on a postage stamp.
PUNK IN AFRICA
(2012, 82 mins)
Three chords, three countries, one revolution. That’s the tagline to this brilliant documentary, which traces the origins of the punk movements in South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. As violence and civil war raged across the African continent during the 1970s, the political and social upheaval gave rise to groups of young musicians who felt the need to speak out against their leaders. It made for an explosive period of creativity, and one that is not often discussed. Thankfully, Deon Maas and Keith Jones’ film gives long overdue recognition to these bands.
Catch up on the first two instalments of The Punk Rock Doc Club below…