Docs That Rock

The Gits Get Remembered

The Gits were one of those bands much admired, much copied, but their original punk songs are rarely heard. It’s probably because the maturing band was still evolving its sound before tragedy struck (not the semi-noble Behind the Music kind but the real deal.) A new film, The Gits, gives the group a proper historical elegy while documenting the senseless, horrible murder of lead singer Mia Zapata. (A full accounting of the band’s history can be found in the Seattle Weekly.

I saw this film at South By Southwest in 2006 so its possible that the theatrical version has been edited in the subsequent two years. But here is what I recall about the film. Its tricky to do a proper accounting of the Gits because of the looming absence of Zapata. She was certainly a pioneer among female punk singers and deserves credit as such. While there is ample footage of the band performing and lots of friends and fans who talk about her charisma, she is rarely heard herself, except on stage. It might have been the filmmaker’s conceit to not let us hear from the woman so many people admired; it also might be because of an actual lack of footage. The Gits had not yet broken big and maybe Zapata had never done any filmed interviews. Not having her voice is in the film powerfully represents her absence but also creates longing for the viewer.

I felt a similar unease to the film throughout, the feeling that there were some stories the bandmates and friends couldn’t or wouldn’t tell. Certainly this reaches an apex in the narrative after Zapata’s body was found in a Seattle alley. Most people killed in a violent manner usually know their offenders and this fact seemed to set off a witch hunt mentality among the close knit community of Seattle punkers, that one of their own could be responsible. (They weren’t.) But there a vague creepiness in this part of the film that was both effective and yet frustrating. It was hard to tell if the filmmakers were making or suppressing some accusations. It was probably only a tangent, which was tempting for an audience, but perhaps distracting for the main purpose of the film, which is to hail the Gits. So while this doc hinted at some interesting subtexts but never quite fully pursued them.

What’s left is this gaping absence of Zapata, the horrible circumstances under which she died and the unfulfilled promise of a band that could have been significant but was robbed of the chance. It’s in select theaters now; clip below.

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July 7, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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