They sang about ‘Typical Girls’ but in reality they were anything but. The Slits were a ferocious, female punk band who played alongside The Clash, The Sex Pistols and more.
Here to be Heard: The Story Of The Slits is a conventional but entertaining music documentary celebrating those raucous rapscallions.
William E. Badgley – who made the rockumentary, Kill All Redneck Pricks – directs this film. The late Slits vocalist, Ari Up thought of the idea shortly before her premature death at age 48. Ari was Johnny Rotten’s stepdaughter but he fails to appear here even though another former Sex Pistol (Paul Cook) does.
Ari insisted on filming The Slits’ reunion and some of that footage features here. But most of the narrative is from new interviews with the group’s current and former members. Bassist, Tessa Pollitt often turns the proceedings into a quaint, little story-time. She reminisces and refers to a yellowed scrapbook containing the band’s old press clippings. Other interviewees include: Don Letts (Big Audio Dynamite), punk historian Helen Reddington, journalist Vivien Goldman and Neneh Cherry.
The film has a raw, DIY feel to it but that’s part of its charm. Old super eight footage features alongside grainy photographs and newer interviews. The sound and video quality varies depending on when and who captured it. But despite feeling a little rough around the edges; this is one highly watchable and lovingly put-together piece.
The Slits confounded journalists and listeners back in the day. They were the first to admit that men didn’t know whether to kill them or bed them. This lead to some intense situations including one instance where Ari Up was attacked.
The Slits were a group that didn’t pander to expectations of what a woman “should be”. As a band they were also constantly reinventing. This is best exhibited in their album Cut, where the songs refuse to conform to any one single genre. It is unsurprising that this remains a seminal record from that era.
This group were almost left out of the history books, so at the very least Here To Be Heard rectifies this. Unfortunately this film uses some standard methods to tell this unique story. This is a love letter to those pioneers of punky reggae but it could have been more. Here To Be Heard is a rollicking documentary about some inspiring women and their fierce form of big audio dynamite.
This review was originally published at: http://scenestr.com.au/movies-and-tv/here-to-be-heard-the-story-of-the-slits-sydney-underground-film-festival-review-20180912