Poly Styrene: I am a Cliche – Documentary Film Screening
February 2, 2022 at 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm
POLY STYRENE: I AM A CLICHÉ
“Some people think little girls should be seen but not heard, but I think… Oh Bondage Up Yours!”
The first woman of color in the UK to front a successful rock band, Poly Styrene introduced the world to a shocking new sound of rebellion. As the frontwoman of X-Ray Spex, the Anglo-Somali punk musician (born Marianne Joan Elliott-Said) not only sang with rare prescience about identity, consumerism and postmodernism, but also served as a key inspiration for the riot grrrl and Afropunk movements. “I actually started singing because of her,” Neneh Cherry reveals.
Featuring personal diary entries narrated by Oscar-nominee Ruth Negga, the documentary follows Styrene’s daughter, Celeste Bell (who also co-directed) as she examines her bi-polar mother’s previously unopened artistic archive and traverses three continents to better understand both Poly the Icon and Poly the Mom. In addition to Cherry, other black female voices to speak of Styrene, include influential British ska artists, Pauline Black (The Selector) and Rhoda Dakar (The Bodysnatchers). Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna also notably contributes, as does Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth), who can also be glimpsed as a skinny, young punk moshing in the front row as Styrene performs at the legendary CBGB’s.
Judged by NME (New Music Express) as one of the “50 Best Music Documentaries of All Time,” Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché is a portrait of a trailblazer that breaks the boundaries of conventional punk documentaries, assessing Styrene’s artistic and cultural legacy, examining the challenges of being a young black, working class female, punk icon, and also movingly revealing her and Celeste’s difficult mother-daughter relationship.
The Linda WAMC’s Performing Arts Studio