By Philip Clarke
CALGARY – Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk is a purely unadulterated love letter to punk rock and everything it stands for. Co-writer/director/producer Corbett Redford has flawlessly crafted a documentary about the punk rock scene in the San Francisco Bay Area over the course of over thirty years. It began in the late 1970s where punk was a counterculture response to the Vietnam War. Contrary to popular belief, however, true punk rock is not about being loud and angry for the sake of being loud and angry, as many critics of the genre so often prematurely point out. Like all good art, punk rock is a form of self-expression and Turn It Around is an informative, inspiring and entertaining lens with which to showcase that self-expression.
We’re treated to lots of footage, photos and interviews from several key players in the punk scene spanning many years. Redford’s documentary is incredibly broad in its scope, yet remains an intimate character study with many different personalities. Billie Joe Armstrong, Noah Landis, Tre Cool, Robert Eggplant, Anna Joy Springer, Tim Armstrong and Kathleen Hanna are just a few titans of their industry that Redford interviews. The film very easily could have been a painfully biased slant on the genre. However, Redford wisely captures several different influential voices to give the film an incredibly well-rounded point of view overall.
Being 155 minutes in length, Redford makes sure that every single possible aspect about punk rock is covered. Several different forms of the genre are discussed, such as hardcore punk, pop punk, ska, queer punk and feminist punk, just to name a handful. The beauty of punk rock is just how incredibly inclusive and communal it can all be.
The heart and soul of Turn It Around is where much of the film’s running time takes place, at 924 Gilman Street. The venue was a well-regarded Shangri-La for every race, gender and orientation of punk rocker. Gilman was, and still is, a place all to its own. The club was home to many different shows over the decades where every kind of person could go to be themselves as free spirits. That said, Gilman did unfortunately experience some trouble from time to time. Like with anything popular, the more positive attention something gets, the more detractors and contrarians will come crawling out of the grass like serpents. As punk became continually popular throughout the years, skinheads and Neo-Nazis subsequently also joined shows at the Gilman, where they would often spout their repugnant hate-speech and/or incite brutal acts violence.
It’s these moments of tension and conflict that Redford carefully documents that elevate the film to another level. The punks and skinheads conflict is ripe for several different films on their own. If you think about it, Green Room would be a perfect film to have as a double bill with Turn It Around. The very fact that these conflicts are still going on today make the hatred and intolerance showcased all the more visceral and disturbing to watch. As hard as those moments in the film are to experience, they are equally important to be aware of and discuss at length.
Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk is unquestionably a film worth watching for punk rockers of all ages. Even if you’re not a fan of punk rock, the film is still worth seeing to understand why both its music and lifestyle have been so beloved for many years. If you’re still not convinced however, it’s narrated by Iggy Pop and executively produced by Green Day. And who doesn’t want to hear Iggy Pop narrate?
Turn It Around will be shown during the Calgary International Film Festival. For more info and times go to www.calgaryfilm.com/filmsCalgary International Film Festival, feminist punk, film, Gilman, Green Day, hardcore punk, pop punk, queer punk, ska, Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk