Directed by Arne Johnson and
2008, 90 min., PG
By Tim Wheeler
BALTIMORE – “It’s an eye-opener.” That’s how my 17 year old grand-daughter Erin reacted after viewing “Girls Rock,” a recently released documentary film by Shane King and Arne Johnson about the Rock & Roll Camp for Girls in Portland, Oregon.
“So much of what we see is on the surface,” Erin continued. “This film showed us what is under the surface.” The 100 girls and young women at the camp, African American, Asian American, Latino and white, seem happy, Erin said. But behind the smiles and giggles, they are struggling against discrimination that shuts them out from many opportunities open to boys and young men. They struggle against corporate America’s profit-driven diktat that a woman should be physically attractive, a mother, or a poorly paid “wage slave,” not an equal person striving for full self-realization.
This film shows that 36 years after Congress passed Title IX of the Civil Rights Act requiring equal funding for girls and women in high school and college sports, they are still locked out in many fields of our society. The Dixie Chicks, Indigo Girls and several other women rock bands prove that progress has been made but still, we have a long, long way to go.
In this film, the girls rock from the noisy, raucous opening scenes to the final concert, with the young women performing the rebellious and sometimes plaintive songs they have composed including one with the memorable line, “Bush is so stupid he won’t sign the Kyoto Accord.”
The film focuses on Misty, 17, a recovering meth addict who explains in an interview why she ran away from her parents, also meth addicts, in her early teenage years. She has been handed an electric guitar and by week’s end composes a haunting song about the struggles of teenagers like herself for a place under the sun.
Laura, 15, is a Korean-born adopted child from Oklahoma City. Round-faced, always smiling and hugging her classmates, she is a lovable “well-adjusted” teenager. Yet in the film, she says she struggles constantly with her negative self-image, seeing herself as ugly.
In the closing scenes, Laura, still smiling, composes and sings her song to the cheering crowd proclaiming that girls are the hardest rockers of all and will not be locked out.
Since the Portland Girls Rock & Roll Camp was founded seven years ago, the movement has spread across the nation and around the world with Girls Rock camps in the San Francisco Bay Area, Philadelphia, PA, Brooklyn, N.Y., Murfreesboro, Tenn., London, UK, and Popkollo, Sweden.
Everybody should see this film. Take your daughters, sons and grandchildren. To find a theater, visit www.girlsrockmovie.com.