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Girls Rock!
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by brianorndorf

"Watch teen girls polish their devil horn salute"
4 stars

What begins as a paean to the musical release of wiggles soon morphs into a sobering reveal of feminine pre-teen dejection in “Girls Rock!,” an intelligent, eye-opening documentary that gives young women a chance to open their tightly-guarded hearts and explore their talents and bliss.

The place is the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls” located in Portland, Oregon. For five days every year, the camp welcomes a small bustle of pre-teen and teenage girls assembling to expose their inner P.J. Harvey. The camp’s intent is to get these girls and their burgeoning gifts comfortable with musicianship and band dynamic, but what really occurs at this retreat is a spiritual awakening of confidence, brought on by the power of performance.

Directed by Arne Johnson and Shane King, “Rock” is fractured filmmaking concerned with two dynamics of the camp: the first, of course, is the birth of musical appreciation, as the camp gathers a diverse cross section of personalities and ethnic backgrounds to ball up into groups that explore the genesis of songwriting and recital. However, that’s merely a cover for the meat of the matter: fragile female psyches and their deterioration in the growing media avalanche of self-loathing and sexualized pop culture images.

Armed with potent statistics taking aim at the continual erosion of female empowerment and the dissolution within critical areas of identity, “Rock” gives us the modern woman and the myriad of ways she suppresses her dreams and opinions for fear of ridicule. The camp is crammed with individuals suffering from an extreme lack of self-esteem, including the stars of the show: firecracker Palace (age 7), death metal enthusiast Laura (15), troubled Misty (17), and attention craver Amaka (8), who all arrive with their own heavy baggage of emotional issues and iffy body images. While coated in an unnecessarily frenzied animation style that almost begs the mind to tune out, the messages are essential to better understand how the average teenage girl is faring out there among the community vultures.

The bulk of “Rock” is devoted to the fine art of band communication, and how these shy girls fight their own inhibitions to form tentative bonds that yield workable tunes. The camp is presided over by a team of “moms” and musicians (including Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney and Beth Ditto of The Gossip), established to turn the tide back to the promising riot grrrl movement of the 90s, which promoted strong images of intelligent and talented female rockers, lost long ago to the ways of Britney and further dimensions of stripper-cum-singer juggernauts that has steamrolled tween culture over the last 10 years.

It’s a wonderful attitude to hold, and “Girls Rock” inventories some impressive results, watching these young women come alive to the beat, losing themselves in the primal scream of it all, away from disapproving parents and general rules of brutal junior high engagement. Not everyone gets along with their peers (the frighteningly mature Palace is unreal in her demands and articulation), but the overall vibe of the week is positive, and for those like Laura, who covers her significant body image pain with a booming outgoing personality, the camp experience is euphoric and joyously reassuring.

Battling over band names, lyrical intent, microphone time, musical direction, and loose ideas of artistic merit (Amaka is a child who treasures her noise), these budding rock stars are a bewitching bundle of personalities who feel the triumph of every successfully landed riff and the familiar crush of social exclusion. It’s a captivating five days inside the core of this exceptional outlet for creativity and expression; a film not just to be commended and enjoyed, but a remarkable camp that should be a requirement for every teen girl out there in dire need of empowerment and focus.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17073&reviewer=404
originally posted: 03/07/08 10:46:19
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Florida Film Festival For more in the 2008 Florida Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/13/08 ps great review, looking forward to seeing movie 5 stars
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  07-Mar-2008 (PG)
  DVD: 27-Jan-2009



[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Shane King
  Arne Johnson

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