Scream Club has been a part of the queer community’s consciousness for more than 10 years, beginning as a fun project for Cindy Wonderful and Sarah Adorable after they met at a porn shop in Olympia, Washington. The duo are famous for their “don’t give a fuck” attitude, their DIY aesthetic and the automatic party atmosphere created at their live shows. Sarah and Cindy are MCs who use computers and other electronic instruments to create infectious hip-hop/pop-punk beats that they pair with fantastically flirty rhymes.
After releasing two well-received albums in American indie circles, Scream Club relocated to Berlin, Germany, where they have continued to record, play live and make a living from their art. Director Julia Ostertag thought them worthy of a film, and has put together And You Belong, a documentary about Sarah, Cindy and the friends they’ve inspired and been equally as inspired by.
“I heard of them first in 2005,” Julia said. “I had just moved to Berlin and they played a memorable gig there, with Peaches and other people in the audience in a tiny queer club called Barbie Deinhoffs that then got shut down for the night by the police because of the noise. When everybody had to walk over to another venue I got to talk to them and I was totally impressed how nice and down-to-earth they were — like no rockstar attitude whatsoever. And I thought their music was at least as good as Le Tigre, so to me they were already stars in that sense.”
And You Belong juxtaposes video footage from Scream Club gigs throughout the years (from gay proms to a crowd of five at a SXSW show to a packed club full of sweaty dancers) with interviews from the women as they discuss their friendship, their former romantic relationship and their dreams for the band.
“Cindy and Sarah are definitely special characters in the way they support themselves mutually and also other artists without ever competing, always trying to make the most out of everything no matter what it is — accompanied by a great sense of style and last but not least:humour,” Julia said. Scream Club have collaborated with several other musicians throughout their decade-long career, including Beth Ditto, Mirah and Tender Forever, and there are also some of their peers featured in the film. Julia conducts interviews over Skype with Nicky Click and Joey Casio, but was able to follow more recent international friends of Sarah and Cindy, such as Mz Sunday Luv, BadKat, DJ Metzgerei and Heidi Mortenson, in person.
“What I think illustrates the queer DIY/queer scene vibe specifically is the way they combine great tunes, feminism and pop culture, bringing across their convictions easily rather as an understatement than as complaints, you know,” Julia said. “I guess that is the difference to some older school feminist ideas here. To me they are clearly demonstrating rebellion can be fun: Cindy and Sarah are just the way they are and doing exactly the things they want to do and that way I think they actively create space for other people to also find their own individual way to express themselves.”
As a filmmaker, Julia is able to portray exactly that without forcing her subjects to make any grand statements. And You Belong simply follows Sarah, Cindy and friends as they move through life, narrating their daily lives which leads to reminiscing about how different things were in Olympia. Cameras follow Sarah to her DJ gigs, which is how she pays the bills outside of Scream Club performances, and accompany Cindy to her favorite bargain store. Can they make a living from what they’re doing? Yes, but is it all that they want? No. Both Cindy and Sarah seem to have different ideas of what ideal fame would include, but the common thread is that they continue to have creative control over everything that they do, and that is likely why they have managed to be a cult success while also not compromising their overtly sexual, queer, boundary-pushing nature.
And You Belong is not just a portrait of Scream Club, but of the queer underground in general, which is why using Cindy and Sarah to tap into that is so ideal. They are truly at the pulse of what is happening in the lesser-known music, art and social gatherings, tastemakers who are more likely to invite you the club rather than ask you for the password. They are welcoming hosts who grant anyone who wants access a backstage pass, and that is one reason why they are making a living doing what they love. Their friends praise them for their talents and how well they work with others. It’s a testament to why they are worthy of a documentary, in case there was any doubt.
Julia said she began filming in 2008 and decided to wrap in I began filming in 2012. “I have to say I never worked on such a long term project,” she said, “and when I had about 800 gigabyte of footage including all the archival stuff I had from them — and Cindy Wonderful decided to go back to the States for a bit — I had the gut feeling I can tell their story and it is a good point to start postproduction.” She was able to whittle it all down into 86 minutes which can finally be seen in the U.S. this spring, beginning with a premiere at the Chicago International Music and Movies Festival this Saturday, April 20, followed by a New York screening on April 30.
What Julia hopes viewers will take away from And You Belong is largely the Scream Club way-of-life. “Inspiration. Be your own role model,” she said. “The knowledge that you can stick together and do your own thing and that the quality of whatever art it is you are making will not depend on the amount of money you’re making off it. It is about that you bring your ideas to life, share them with other people, collaborate rather than compete — and doing something from scratch might be more inventive than waiting for big budgets to come along. And maybe, if it comes down to it: Girls just wanna have fun — and there is nothing wrong with that.”