BEV highlights some of the excellent work by and about women at this year’s East End Film Festival which runs in venues across East London till July 3rd… Laura Adams reviews LOS PUNKS: WE ARE ALL WE HAVE, debut feature by Angela Boatwright…
Los Punks: We Are All We Have, Dir. Angela Boatwright USA 2016 / 79min
by Laura Adams
Los Angeles, home of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Hollywood, Sunset Boulevard – the glitz and the glamour and residence of movie and music stars. LA is also the place where Lemmy lives on in rock legend, where NOFX began their ska-influenced days and Black Flag became the full throttle band that punk kids emulate across the world now. Loud and honest, Los Punks focuses in on the DIY punk scene of South-Central and East Los Angeles, following a few passionate promoters across back yards, PA systems in hand, to put on gigs for the largely Latino punk community.
Through talking head interviews and visceral, kinetic footage of the gigs, debut director Angela Boatwright steers the audience through the circle pits, the police raids, and the home lives of some of the key characters in the group. Largely in their teens and early twenties, this community of socially and financially arrested punk fans come together each week to pay minimal cover charge and listen to bands who scream the truth of their lives over frenetic hardcore punk. Played on oft-destroyed kit, amplified through PA systems that have more often than not been carried from one yard to another following an early police raid, in yards and car-parks. Boatwright’s camera operators don’t come out unscathed, something which main promoter Nacho Corrupted is unsurprised by when a rare interjection from behind the camera is included in the doc.
Nacho and his cohorts use the ‘door’ takings to run more shows, pay for the basics for their families, cover the high phone bills that organising the gigs bring, and generally surviving. The bands are just happy to find their audience, and the audience is happy to find their community. Nacho, whose band Corrupted Youth play some of the gigs that he puts on, we take to be in his early thirties. Certainly he’s the most experienced. His co-promoter April is just 15, and shyly admits that she’s probably the youngest in the community. Making calls, meeting the bands at the bus-stop to show them where the gig is, and taking the cover-charge at the entrance, April comes across as quiet throughout the film, but clearly has a solid centre. April uses her share to pay her mom’s rent; she sees the community as her family as her mom is never around, and it isn’t long until we see April has moved out of home.
The film documents a familiarly macho environment of beer and headbanging. Boatwright takes care to include footage of April joining in the pit nearest the bands, though this is tempered by a cat-fight over a man captured outside a gig. Female fronted bands are interviewed with a refreshing lack of reference to their gender, a halleluiah moment, and the gender split of bands, at least those included in the film, is fairly impressive.
Taking in a punk sub-culture forty years young, the community is made up mostly of Hispanic teens and young adults. Interviewees consistently reference finding their community, and the punk-rock bands they play in or promote, as a reason to keep living. With low-income households, early exit from the education system and limited job prospects, many of the people the film focuses on have attempted suicide before. We see the sense of belonging that the gigs brings them, the focus for their energies that playing in the bands allows, the creative outlet, and the showmanship, and the fun. Some have plans to go to college, with the help of supportive immigrant families; some just want to have a reason to keep going despite their families not understanding them at all.
Produced by VANS executives, the film doesn’t pull any punches, showing the poverty and effects of a lacking social system – violent interludes and police shut-downs are met with unblinking acceptance, nothing is a surprise and they’ve seen it all before; but it also celebrates the community it finds – and focuses on the energy the bands create in the crowd and the happier outcomes that being part of something can bring.
The UK premiere of Los Punks: We Are All We Have takes place on Wednesday 29th June, 7.00PM at London’s Genesis Cinema – see here for details and tickets.