I’ve seen a lot of “rock docs,” as they are affectionately termed, yet so far, none have stayed in my mind as much as The Gits documentary has. It could be the incredibly catchy, energetic brand of punk rock the band created that plays throughout the film; or it’s perhaps the enigmatic presence of frontwoman Mia Zapata as she sprays silly string into the crowd from the stage. Sadly, it also has to do with part of the reason the film was made: Zapata was raped and brutally murdered before The Gits had a chance to become as big as Seattle-scene counterparts like Nirvana and Soundgarden.
The film The Gits wasn’t made to dwell on Zapata’s death, however. Filmmaker Kerri O’Kane was inspired by Mia’s life , as well as by the band and their effect on the music scene that became so inspirational for a new generation. O’Kane found out about Zapata while her murder was still unsolved, and over seven years of working on the documentary, was able to capture the solving of the crime in 2003, a decade after it had happened.
The 2008 documentary features exclusive interviews with those who knew Mia Zapata best: her bandmates, her father and her good friends that were inspired by her to start their own band, including the ladies of 7 Year Bitch. Even Joan Jett makes an appearance, having played with Zapata’s bandmates for a benefit show that raised cash to pay a private investigator when there were no leads and friends were frustrated that the Seattle police weren’t doing enough.
The Gits utilizes candid interviews, live performances, photographs, art and Mia’s lyrics to illustrate how inspirational Zapata was during her short existence. Her life and untimely death inspired a women’s self-defense organization, Home Alive, which was how the director came to find out about Zapata in the first place. When she went searching for more information on the singer, and ultimately, any film footage available, she found there wasn’t any, aside from two minutes on a Seattle-music compilation DVD called Hype from the 1990s.
If you’ve never heard a song by The Gits, or aren’t particularly a fan of punk rock, I still encourage you to see The Gits, which is available on NetFlix and is currently showing in select cities in the U.S. A strong, humble woman who put her soul vocals to use fronting an interesting punk band in a bustling scene that was about to blow up, Mia Zapata is an inspiration for any woman who has something to say and does it without regret or censorship.
Have you heard of The Gits? Does the film interest you?