To many people, punk rock music is nothing more than young men and women screaming and banging away at a drum set and guitars. With brash lyrics about divisive subjects and even more abrasive aesthetics, punk has become synonymous with counterculture and youth movements. However, for those young men and women who live in South Central and East Los Angeles, it means all of these things and so much more.
With Los Punks: We Are All We Have, director Angela Boatwright takes us into the world of punk rock music within this chunk of Los Angeles, and not only introduces us to some of the players within that scene, but just how they are building bonds among young men and women who are looking for a place to truly call home. Among the men and women we meet on our journey through LA’s independent punk scene, there is Nacho, a member of the well respected Corrupted Youth punk outfit, and also a promoter who begins getting closer to his sister through their mutual love of this music.
Another promoter, April, is a 15 year old woman not only promoting the music she loves but trying her best to help her mother pay rent. Then there are the artists, seemingly at two different ends of the spectrum. Gary, a singer in the band Rhythmic Asylum, is a college graduate from a family of Latin American refugees, with as much passion for his music as he does for his potential law career he is pursuing.
Finally, there’s Alex, the exact type of troubled soul the primal rhythms of punk rock can help save. As a youth, he had thought of suicide numerous times, only to find punk music and begin getting involved in the scene with his band Psyk Ward. With life at home becoming shaky, he also found a passion for cooking, sparking a career as a chef which he fosters in his off time.
Through the eyes of these four men and women, we become privy to a scene of backyard concerts, which have yet to truly catch the attention of the mainstream music industry but have helped draw in thousands of young men and women across every walk of life and bring them together. Boatwright’s film is a superbly crafted one, one that takes the now almost cliche-ridden style of talking head music documentary and injects a new life and energy into it thanks to the raucous performance showcases. Los Punks doesn’t break any new ground aesthetically, as its use of interviews, performances and then brief “at home” sequences is something of a documentary staple, but what it does do is gives us breathtaking subjects to learn about. Every aspect of the film plays together like a symphony, with the performance numbers helping to give us a view of the scope of this scene, the interviews introduce us to specific players, and the moments of these men and women at home help show us what type of youths this scene is drawing in. It’s a beautifully structured picture, one that feels a bit polished for this chaotic scene, but one that helps bring to the forefront the real stakes within this music and this scene.
A wave of music that dates back to the late ‘70s, the backyard punk scene of South Central and East LA is one filled with men and women from one of the nation’s toughest areas. Los Punks from director Angela Boatwright is a gorgeously made (particularly the photography which is shockingly crisp and naturalistic) proto-tone poem about what this scene means to the troubled youth it draws in. Through the four artists and promoters we meet during the picture, we see a minute slice of this world, one where punk is more than a style or a musical genre. As one of our leads says at one point, it means to persevere and never giving up.