Sunday, June 28, 2015

The World's First All-Girl Punk Band

Earlier this month, the Kickstarter campaign for the documentary Here to be Heard: The Story of The Slits fell short of its $30,000 goal. In true punk fashion, that's simply going to make the job of Pacific Northwest filmmaker William E. Badgley a little harder.

To put it another way: never mind the crowdfunding. Once post-production work is completed, the plan is to premiere the film in London, where The Slits formed in 1976 in the shadow of The Sex Pistols. The band's music was christened “punky reggae” and the group really hit the radar in 1977 when they toured with The Clash.

As Badgley recently explained to The Stranger's Dave Segal, he has an intricate history with his latest subject matter:

"They [The Slits] stayed at my house in 2006 in Portland when they were on that tour. Jennifer Shagawat, who is my film partner, was their tour manager at that time. We’d been old friends. We’d lived together and gone on tours together. I met [lead singer] Ari Up a few times after that. Ari was encouraging Jennifer to film everything, "We’re running out of time! We have to film now!"
"Ari wanted Jennifer to make this movie, not just about The Slits, but she had this wider concern about the strength of women in music. She felt that this wasn’t getting the attention that they should be. The Slits reforming was partially about righting this wrong about how she felt Slits 1 had gone down. Slits had been in the same living room among all these bands and individuals that went on to stardom, feeling that they’d been written out of a history that they were literally standing there for and were big contributors to. The Slits 2 reformation was centered around that for Tessa [Pollitt] and Ari. What they didn’t know was that Ari was dying."

When Up passed away in 2010, Badgley had just completed a ten-country road show tour for his documentary Kill All Redneck Pricks: A Documentary Film about a Band Called KARP. He came on board, and enlisted on the soundtrack side Seattle musician Ben von Wildehaus, with whom he has worked on previous TV commercial and documentary projects.

Badgley has created a merchandise items page to help fund the final stretch and is also encouraging supporters to pre-order the DVD. When he met up with punk era DJ Don Letts to film an interview, the fellow filmmaker told him he wanted to make his own Slits documentary as well. But once Letts saw the to be Heard footage, he decided to work with Badgley on the same single film and struck a favorable archival deal for his footage of the band.


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