2018 Milwaukee Film Festival – Review – HERE TO BE HEARD: THE STORY OF THE SLITS
HERE TO BE HEARD: THE STORY OF THE SLITS has intentions of filling an important gap in rock history by telling the story of the all female British punk rock group The Slits. Contemporaries and in some ways even edgier than bands they associated with like The Clash and The Sex Pistols, The Slits blazed a bright, brief trail. The film couples their sensibilities, rare footage, and a DIY aesthetic into something heartfelt and appreciative. It really makes the case for them as an important band.
That loving personal touch makes HERE TO BE HEARD: THE STORY OF THE SLITS. Especially when the band members, who have all gone their separate ways over the years, are interviewed. Alas, when the film focuses on the narrative of the band’s actual rise and fall, there’s not a lot that’s unique there. Nothing we haven’t seen hundreds of times before. The initial excitement, the initial success, backstage conflicts, a hit record, the touring, and then a less commercially successful record, and finally the breakup. Perhaps it’s not the fault of HERE TO BE HEARD: THE STORY OF THE SLITS that this tale is familiar, but it is the fault of the film that there’s not more of an effort to try to freshen it up.
In particular, the film shines when it focuses on the actual band members and we see how much The Slits meant to them. More than one has a scrapbook of their exploits that they take real care to preserve. Viv Albertine is very well spoken and self aware. Drummer Paloma Romero has retired to become a Christian teacher, although she still carries her drumsticks with her. And lead singer Ari and bassist Tessa reformed in the 21st century for a brief, last fling. The story of that reformation and what it means gives the last third an emotional kick that’s a bit lacking beforehand and you kind of wish that the film had just focused on that.
It’s the lack of focus, or a reunion of all the surviving members, that holds the film back. It’s a scattershot approach. When the film settles on showing the band in its heyday perform “Shoplifting” and “Typical Girls” it crackles with energy and daring. Too little of that permeates the film itself and it only touches upon the emotional core that could substitute for it. HERE TO BE HEARD: THE STORY OF THE SLITS is worth seeing, but it’s in the lower tier at the 2018 Milwaukee Film Festival.
HERE TO BE HEARD: THE STORY OF THE SLITS plays once more at the 2018 Milwaukee Film Festival on Friday, October 26th at 7 pm at the Oriental Theatre. The 2018 Milwaukee Film Festival runs from October 18, 2018 to November 1, 2018. Information and tickets can be found at Milwaukee Film’s website.