Combustible Celluloid
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With: Iggy Pop (narrator), Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, Tre Cool, Larry Livermore, Matt Freeman, Lars Fredricksen, Dave Edwardson, Scott Kelly, Noah Landis, Kamela Parks, Noodles, Sammytown, Robert Eggplant, Metal Mike, Kathleen Hanna, Tim Armstrong, Miranda July, Michael Franti, Ian Mackaye, Kirk Hammett, Jello Biafra, Penelope Houston
Written by: Corbett Redford, Anthony Marchitiello
Directed by: Corbett Redford
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 155
Date: 07/28/2017

Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk (2017)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Approaching a whopping three hours, Corbett Redford's Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk is more like an encyclopedia than a documentary. Moving, more or less in chronological order, it begins (after the Ramones, of course) with the earliest Bay Area punk rock bands, including the Dead Kennedys, The Avengers, Flipper, and Fang. (It includes way more information about the hilarious Berkeley band Fang than I've ever been able to dig up.) It then tracks the younger punks as they looked for outlets.

Then comes 924 Gilman, a club that was designed to be all-ages, and with a positive vibe, a safe place for weirdos and punks to be themselves. (Miranda July put on an early play there, proving that punk is more than just music.) It goes through a list of important bands from the time, focusing on Neurosis, Crimpshrine, Isocracy, and others as much as on the more famous Operation Ivy and Green Day. It also tells stories of the people behind the scenes, including the folks that worked the doors, made recordings, wrote 'zines, took pictures, and simply made out lists of bands.

It tells the harrowing, energizing story of how the club dealt with an invading hoard of skinhead bullies. It talks about the girl bands of the time, and whether the "riot grrrl" movement was positive or not. It even includes an in-depth discussion of Green Day's catapulting to huge success, and whether or not they "sold out." (If they're OK with Jello Biafra, then they're OK with me.) In other words, it's more than just a history... it's an actual discourse on a movement, and where it comes from and what it means.

The film occasionally reverts to what looks like old VHS footage for a more punk rock look. It interviews many, many people including Tim Armstrong from Operation Ivy and Rancid, Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tre Cool of Green Day, the aforementioned July and Biafra, Kirk Hammett of Metallica, Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill, Penelope Houston of the Avengers, Michael Franti of the Beatnigs, the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, and Spearhead, Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat and Fugazi, and so many more. None other than the godfather himself, Iggy Pop, narrates. It will have you digging out your old copies of Energy and Kerplunk! for a fresh listen.

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