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It all started with a boom

Film review: She Said Boom: The Story of Fifth Column

I can pretty much sing along with every Le Tigre song ever written. I’ve danced my ass off to “Bitchy” by Lesbians on Ecstasy. In fact, I consider myself a pretty big queer-music aficionado; I worship at the altar of riot grrrl, and I am a big fan of lezzie electro bands in particular. But up until recently, I had never even heard of Fifth Column, the Toronto-bred mothers of queercore. Without them, many of our underground art superstars and favourite lady bands might not have existed. This is the underlying message of Kevin Hegge’s new documentary, She Said Boom: The Story of Fifth Column.

She Said Boom follows the trajectory of the Toronto feminist post-punk icons through archival band interviews, performance footage and grainy Super 8 films. The present-day interviews with various band members, filmmakers and zinesters allow the people within the community created by and around Fifth Column to speak about what informed their work – namely, a lack of belonging and an outright refusal to participate in the gay mainstream of the 1980s. We learn that the self-described queer/feminist/artist/DIY-ers responded by coming together to create queercore, and thus a place for the intersection of gay and punk. Additional interviews with iconic riot grrrl Kathleen Hanna, performance artist Vaginal Davis and cult artist/film star Bruce LaBruce confirm that the women of Fifth Column paved the way for riot grrrl, while also having an enormous impact on queer film.

She Said Boom documents the emergence of the queercore movement without romanticizing it. Conversations with band members explore their ardently feminist politics and complicated relationships with their collaborators, femininity, representation and the punk scene. However, it is the personal relationships between the various Fifth Column members, including core members Caroline Azar, Beverly Breckenridge and GB Jones, that add colour to this behind-the-scenes exposé of an underground cultural movement.

G.B.Jones

The infamous G.B. Jones of Fifth Column

One of my favourite clips is an irreverent interview the band does with MuchMusic (from back when they gave a shit about decent Can-con and supporting local artists). Erica Ehm asks, “Are you feminists?” And one of the band members quips, “Bull dykes from Transylvania.”

For a younger queer music fan (and musician) like me, who has been feeling a serious dearth of role models in this city, it’s hard to imagine that a Toronto-based, all-women band could have such a widespread influence, and yet this film suggests that there was such a moment in our – ahem – herstory.

She Said Boom invites us to step into a particular part of Toronto’s queer history and gives voice to some criminally under-appreciated female artists. It is funny and smart and shows us some of the less-than-glamorous aspects of being in a band, all the while giving credit where credit is due. But if you need just one reason to see this doc, go for the reason that sparked it all — the music. Everything else will just be yummy, yummy queercore gravy.

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She Said Boom: The Story of Fifth Column makes its world premiere at this year’s Hot Docs film festival in Toronto:

Friday April 27, at 7:15pm – The Royal Cinema
Tuesday May 1, at 9pm – The Cumberland 2
Friday May 4, at 7pm – The Fox Theatre

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  1. [...] you haven’t had a chance to read Kay Pettigrew’s review you can check it out here. If you’re not in Toronto or can’t make it out to Hot Docs, this film will be hitting [...]

  2. [...] You can check out our full review here. [...]