Here to Be Heard: The Story of the Slits
directed by William E. Badgley
starring Ari Up, Palmolive, Tessa Pollitt
While it appears just about everyone from the original wave of punk has received the documentary treatment, there have been some notable omissions. Chief among those would be the Slits, the first all-female punk band (and one of a handful of all women rock bands). Here to be Heard: The Story of the Slits a crowdfunded documentary presents the story of the trailblazing band.
Forming when the most of the members were still teenagers, the Slits took the punk creed of ‘anyone can do it’ to heart and stood out from their punk brethren with their enthusiasm for reggae rhythms and a gloriously amateur approach to their music.
Here to be Heard: The Story of the Slits has a plethora of archival material, most of which we view from the scrapbooks of bassist Tessa Pollitt. Band members and film clips recall how reactionary and conservative late ’70s England was and just how revolutionary it was for teenage girls to cause a ruckus on stage.
Not only the story of a band, Here to be Heard: The Story of the Slits is also the story of friendship; a friendship that can sometimes strain and ebb, but is always present. Lead singer Ari Up was a force of nature, as show in performance clips and home video, and her death is heartbreaking to the remaining members, even as she sometimes pushed them away.
Vintage performance clips show how the band matured (in a good way) with their second album, using non-Western song structures and rhythms to their blend of punk and reggae. While interviews reveal how refreshing and vital the band was in their day, as well as their reformation, it would be instructive to have interviews with current musicians to show how they were inspired by the band posthumously. This is a small complaint, however, and Here to be Heard: The Story of the Slits does exactly what it sets out to do, exposes an innovative band to current audiences, and hopefully raises awareness of what a truly revolutionary act the Slits were.