GIRLS ROCK! (Arne Johnson, Shane King, U.S.). 87 minutes. Saturday (April 21), 6:30 pm; Tuesday (April 24), 11:30 pm, Bloor. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Portland's Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls isn't just a week-long retreat where preteens learn how to become the next Joan Jett. It's an incredible feminist project that reclaims the Spice-Girls-tainted concept of girl power by helping young women love girlhood in all its awkwardness - while they play power chords with their amps set at 11.
Arne Johnson and Shane King's dead-clever doc lets the famous rockers who volunteer their time (Carrie Brownstein, Beth Ditto) fade into the background and focuses on the amazing kids who grow and rock at camp, from eight-year-old divas-in-training to shrinking violet ex-gangbangers. (T.O. trivia note: watch for Galaxy's Emma McKenna.) Charismatic Korean-American death metal fan Laura stands out.
The film uses an aesthetic borrowed from zines, music videos and campy mental hygiene films, a Kathleen Hanna-heavy soundtrack and tons of sociological data. Most impressive, however, is the fact that they refuse to portray Rock 'n' Roll Camp as idyllic, exposing the flaws - catfights, pariahs - that exist even in a girl-positive space.