2021 DOXA Documentary Film Festival

WHEN & WHERE May 6-16, 2021 | Entire Program Online

Reviewer John Jane


Fanny: The Right to Rock

Canada, dir. Bobbi Jo Hart, 2021, 96 mins

Available: May 6, 2021 12:01am - May 16, 2021 11.59pm

While the eighties gave us the Bangles and the Go-Go's, the early seventies gave us Fanny. Started up by Filipino-American bassist Jean Millington and her sister lead guitarist June Millington who had both played together in high school as Svelte along with drummer and friend Brie Darling, who also identified as Filipino-American. The trio took on the ultra feminist name Fanny (a slang term for a part of the female anatomy). There were later joined by keyboardist and vocalist Nickey Barclay, Then, when Darling’s pregnancy forced to step aside, Alice de Buhr came in as the band’s new drummer. Just as Fanny finally had their first real hit sneak into the charts, June Millington and Nickey Barclay quit the group, making room for Brie Darling's return and Patti Quatro (sister of Susi Quatro) to replace June on lead guitar.

The women are a litle heavier, and a lot greyer, but still with loads of attitude. Fanny was certainly the pioneers of women moving in on what had always been, and to a large extent still is a male domain. But where songs by the Bangles and the Go-Go's still get airplay, we just don’t hear as much from Fanny. It’s not because their musicianship is in anyway inferior (a search on YouTube would confirm that). Part of the reason is Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles and Belinda Carlisle of the Go-Go's who just seemed to have the front singer aura that wasn’t apparent in fanny.

Bobbi Jo Hart’s rockumentary works best when it recounts the band’s heyday. Their time as popular music forerunners living, working and partying and Hedy lamarr’s former home with the likes of Joe Coker and Mick Jagger dropping by is Rock ‘n’ Roll gold. The film touches on their tour of the UK where they were hugely popular - even taking time to record at the famous Abby Road Studios. Alas, it does wane when it focuses too much screen time on their reunion under the contrived new name Fanny Walked the Earth.

The film ends on a bittersweet note. As June, Brie, Alice and Patti attend the House of Blues SHE Rocks Awards, we see Jean undergoing physical rehabilitation after suffering from a stroke.


Your Mother’s Comfort

Brazil/USA, dir. Adam Golub, 2020, 75 mins

Available: May 6, 2021 12:01am - May 16, 2021 11.59pm

In Portuguese with English subtitles

Adam Golub’s socio-political documentary chronicles the struggle of Indianara Siqueira, a trans woman, political activist and den mother to the occupants of Casa Nem, a sanctuary for Rio de Janeiro’s transgender and LGBT. Indianara is a forty-five year-old former sex worker who is campaigning for a position on Rio’s city council in the 2016 municipal elections. Not surprising, Indianara is not short of enemies, even in her own Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL). She also draws the ire of Jair Bolsonaro, who at the time was a member of Brazil's Chamber of Deputies.

Ultimately, Indianara loses the election by a couple of hundred votes. At this point, the director might have changed his focus away from his subject and perhaps explored the coming apart of Brazil’s democracy. Alas, Golub seems so fascinated by his subject that he follows her and her band of misfits and mavericks from one condemned building to another.

Golub’s unfiltered approach to filmmaking means that there is a lack of contiuity. Siqueira is certainly a survivor and while currently wrongly barred from the PSOL she will no doubt be a political thorn in the side of the establishment for some time to come.


Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché

UK, dir. Celeste Bell & Paul Sng, 2021, 90 mins

Available: May 6, 2021 12:01am - May 16, 2021 11.59pm

Poly Styrene, whose real name was Marianne Elliot, who in the late seventies and early eighties was a conspicuous member of the British punk scene. She grew up in the working class district of Brixton, London and was raised by her Scottish-Irish mother. She likely never knew her father who had been a Somali-born dock worker.

Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché started out as a publicly funded project initiated by Celeste Bell, Poly Styrene’s only child from her marriage to musician Adrian Bell. Since her mother’s death at the age of 53, (almost) exactly ten years ago on April 25, 2011, Bell has become the de facto curator or the mother’s personal archives. The documentary is perhaps less a chronicle of Poly Styrene’s music career, but rather the story of Bell’s complicated relationship with her mother. The film follows Bell’s steps as she re-traces her mother’s journey through the grungy night clubs of London and New York.

The film is mis-titled. Poly Styrene could be described as many things, but not a cliché. She didn’t have a great voice, nor was she blessed with the dubious gift of conventional beauty – neither feature considered an asset in the punk music movement. Bell’s documentary is hardly a musical tribute, but there is an abundance of poor quality video footage of the subject’s club gigs as well partial interviews with many fellow punk artists. Watch out for a scene that briefly includes punk poet John Cooper Clarke.

What About Our Future?

Canada, dir. Jaime Leigh Gianopoulos & Cláudio Cruz, 2020, 24 mins

Available: May 6, 2021 12:01am - May 16, 2021 11.59pm

When we look at film footage of the infamous climate strike on October 25, 2019, and see upwards of 10,000 people standing shoulder to shoulder around the north plaza of the Vancouver Art Gallery, it’s difficult to imagine that it just three months before the first known case of COVID-19 in British Columbia.

Jaime Leigh Gianopoulos and Cláudio Cruz’s twenty minute documentary looks at a movement of high school students across Metro Vancouver known collectively as the Sustainabiliteens. The film observes their preparations for the climate change rally that was expected to have Swedish activist Greta Thunberg in attendance. The group of essentially teenagers, shares a vision to advocate for a reduction of carbon emissions towards a more sustainable planet.

In the weeks and days leading up to the rally, the students appear to have as much fun talking about it as eventually doing it. They even send a delegation to meet George Heyman (Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy), who gives the appearance of being nonchalant.

Vancouverites in general, but especially those who were there will have a special interest in this short documentary.

© 2021 John Jane