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Review: A movement claims its name in the documentary ‘Queercore: How To Punk A Revolution’

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Bikini Kill performing in Seattle, March 1995, in the documentary “Queercore: How To Punk A Revolution.”
(Alice Wheeler)

In the landscape of radical ‘80s and ‘90s expressions of punk, from riot grrl to grunge, the term “queercore” (or “homocore”) doesn’t have the same cultural saturation. Director Yony Leyser’s documentary “Queercore: How To Punk a Revolution” seeks to inscribe the word onto the historical record as one of the major influences through its music, film and culture on the rebellious aims of those other movements.

Starting with Canadian filmmaker, writer and provocateur Bruce La Bruce, Leyser traces the roots of queercore from its tiny Toronto inception, where “a ragtag group of queer revolutionaries,” rebelling against macho punks and the bourgeois gay scene, willed queercore into existence.

Using archival footage, photos, and interviews with artists and scene members such as LaBruce, Silas Howard, Justin Vivian Bond, Deke Elash, Tom Jennings, and affiliates such as John Waters and Kathleen Hanna, Leyser details the movement, the overlapping philosophies with punk, and the nuances of what the scene offered to the queer identity, which was ultimately about the shared goals of fighting the dominant ideology and its structures.

While the first half of the film has a convoluted timeline, it clearly lays out the arguments, players and aesthetic of the movement. The film really hits its stride in the second half, depicting the growth of the queercore music scene and bands including Tribe 8 and Pansy Division that came up alongside acts that went mainstream, such as Green Day and Bikini Kill.

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Leyser’s film is an important document capturing the influence of queercore, an underground movement that enjoys life on the fringes, where identifying as an anti-establishment “arty weirdo” is just as important as sexuality.

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‘Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour 23 minutes

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Playing: Starts Sept. 28, Ahrya Fine Arts, Beverly Hills


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