Review of “Girls Rock”

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At the Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp

for Girls, based in Portland,

Ore., girls have one week to

learn an instrument, form a band and play a song for an audience of 700. That’s

quite a different experience from traditional summer camp, where kids convene

to play Capture the Flag and roast s’mores around a campfire.

When filmmakers Arne

Johnson and Shane King heard out rocker Carrie Brownstein (formerly of

Sleater-Kinney) speak about her experience as a counselor at the camp, they knew

it would be an inspiring story to capture on film. Girls Rock!, which opens in select cities on Friday, March 7, does

just that.

Following four campers as

they form friendships and musical groups and talk about just being a girl, the

documentary gives non-campers the chance to see what it’s like to have the opportunity

to learn from Brownstein and other veteran musicians like the Gossip‘s Beth

Ditto
. And it’s certainly an inspiring atmosphere.

Carrie Brownstein (left) and Beth Ditto

Filmed in 2005, all of

the campers gather together in a circle at the beginning of their week at camp

to quiet their nerves and break the ice. Most of the girls haven’t ever played

music before, and some (like 17-year-old Misty) haven’t even seen the

instrument of their choice. Things get really tough when genres are posted on

the wall (hip-hop, punk, rock, etc.) and some girls are left standing alone.

Fifteen-year-old Laura, for instance, longs to front a death metal band.

The film focuses on four

girls in particular, highlighting their personal stories as much as their

musical progress. Laura is a Korean adoptee who has a hard time fitting in at

home in Oklahoma.

She sports Iron Maiden T-shirts and gets very physical very fast, hugging her

new bandmates and eagerly trying to form fast friendships. However, she still

feels left out, and the camp initially doesn’t seem to do much to help her find

like-minded friends.

Laura

The aforementioned Misty

is a special case in Girls Rock! She is

specially documented by a female filmmaker in order to help her feel comfortable

discussing her personal issues on camera. She comes to the camp from a lockdown

facility and is challenged by her bandmates constantly.

Having formed a band

based on hip-hop, their song ends up sounding more like soulful rock, and the

group is divided on choosing a better name and look. Misty is quick to get

argumentative, but counselors intervene to help the girls talk it out and

resolve their differences.

Misty

Girls Rock! also follows youngsters

Palace and Amelia in their

bands and homes, talking to their parents about their social anxieties. It is

clear that the parents, who speak candidly, see the camp as a positive

experience that their daughters can benefit from.

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