Punk’s powerful influence, from Canada to Indonesia and back again

Not all bad: punk’s influence on various countries is the topic of Douglas Crawford’s documentary. Courtesy of Cinematheque.

Douglas Crawford’s documentary The Punks Are Alright traces the influence of punk music around the world, from Ontario to Jakarta, Indonesia. The film opens with Hamilton’s Forgotten Rebels, part of punk’s original wave in the late 1970s, and brings us to unlikely places thousands of kilometers and decades away.

Using interview and concert footage, The Punks Are Alright presents punk as a means of protest and expression that transcends language and geography. Crawford shows us how a decades-old Forgotten Rebels song can inspire a kid in Latin America to start a band that in turn offers hope and a sense of community to a frustrated factory worker in Indonesia. For kids in the streets of Sao Paulo, punk and DIY-culture offer an alternative to drugs and gangs. In Indonesia, punk helps to channel the anger of the industrial working class. In each country punk comes up against a different set of economic conditions and social forces and in each it is made anew.

Like the music itself, The Punks Are Alright is passionate, socially conscious and loosely structured. It’s an earnest look at the power of art that, in the end, is lot of fun.

Published in Volume 63, Number 29 of The Uniter (July 16, 2009)

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