Tuesday, December 18, 2007

If you have no other choice

Last night I went to I Love Video with the intent to rent Night Train Murders after hearing Eli Roth talk about what a huge influence it was on Hostel 2 on the commentary of that movie (which is great, by the way; I highly recommend it), but instead impulsively rented a little documentary called Follow My Voice, about recording a tribute album to Hedwig and the Angry Inch by a bunch of indie rock hipsters (Sleater-Kinney, Ben Folds, Frank Black, Jonathan Richman, Polyphonic Spree, They Might Be Giants, Cyndi Lauper, Yo La Tengo, The Breeders, Stephen Colbert, and a few more).

Mixed in to behind the scenes recording of the record, however, are video diaries of several teenagers attending the Harvey Milk High School in Manhattan, which is a school composed primarily of gay and transgender students (and what proceeds of the CD are benefitting), but open to anyone who wants to come there because they don't fit in at a regular school, or they feel threatened, or whatever. At first the video diaries kind of annoyed me, and I thought they were boring, and I just wanted to see more bands doing awesome songs, but the longer the movie went on, the more it roped me in. I started to see a structure to the film, which is that it was taking the themes of the songs and weaving it into the themes of the kids' diaries to, essentially, create the structure, or plot, of the documentary. It's subtle, and doesn't always work, but when it does work, it's incredible. I got all choked up watching a transgender teenager getting her hair done for prom, while the Polyphonic Spree performed "Wig in a Box" (perhaps my favorite song from the whole movie), which is totally ridiculous, but it just works.

All in all, it turned out to be a really inspiring film, and the scene towards the end, when the high school finally opens as a fully-accredited high school in New York, and the police have to set up fencing to keep back the protestors, but the kids walk through anyway, beaming, as they are also cheered on by many, many supporters, just warms the heart and really gives one hope. (It's also quite reminiscent of footage of the integration of Central High in Little Rock back in the 50's, which is some of the most amazing stuff I've ever seen.)

Okay, I know I'm not being very eloquent here, but I just woke up. If you love Hedwig, or just love rock-n-roll, or just love great documentaries, check it out. You can buy the CD here, though I'm not sure the proceeds are still going to the school, since I checked the actual web site of the record label, and it no longer exists.

In the meantime, enjoy some "Wig in a Box" from the movie!

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