Opening to the urgent sounds of Bikini Kill's "Rebel Girl," Girls Rock! wants to be an incisive call for action against a culture that seems to value surface over substance.
Or at least that's what Girls Rock, a Portland, Ore.-based Rock & Roll camp for girls ages 8-18, wants to instill in its young attendees.
Co-directors Shane King and Arne Johnson's documentary melds handheld footage of the camp�s daily dramas with lo-fi effects montages devoted to various facts about the lives of contemporary girls, such as: only 22 percent of musical performers are female; girls are twice as likely to say a body part is their best feature; and that the No. 1 wish of teenage girls is to lose weight.
The camp -- whose teachers include Sleater-Kinney guitarist Carrie Brownstein and The Gossip singer Beth Ditto -- hopes to reverse these trends by instilling a sense of DIY empowerment in girls who, over a week's time, form bands, write songs and eventually perform their creations in front of an audience. The directors focus their sights on four campers in particular (ranging from Misty, a 17-year-old trying to get past drug addiction, to Palace, an alarmingly self-conscious 8-year-old with control issues) all of whom are products of broken families and low self-esteem.
While clearly well-intentioned, Girls Rock! is ultimately too slight for its complex subject matter, coming off more like a primer than a fulfilling investigation of what it's like to be a girl traversing today's competitive, pressure-filled society. Grade: C+
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