Vancouver Queer Film Fest: Art-noise-terror relived in She Said Boom
It’s hilarious the way that MuchMusic VJ Erica Ehm leans in and timidly asks the members of Fifth Column—like they might be witches or puppy killers—"Are you really feminists?" It’s a clip from the late ‘80s, when the band must have looked genuinely dangerous to the nation’s music station and its trembling viewers. Maybe it still does?
These influential if undervalued art punk terrorists get the tribute they deserve in Kevin Hegge’s splattery collage of a film, She Said Boom: The Story of Fifth Column. Between 1982 and the early 2000s, Fifth Column presented a world unto itself, like an explosively creative mix of Warhol’s factory, Crass, no wave, and the deepest pockets of Toronto’s queer underground.
Building his doc around interviews with founding (and still defiantly odd) member G.B. Jones, along with vocalist Caroline Azar and bassist Beverly Breckenridge—other Columnists from the extensive lineup also appear on camera—the takeaway from She Said Boom is that defining their own identities outside of the mainstream, heteronormative Toronto of the 1980s and 90s was a wildly exciting, and occasionally dangerous business.
If the cockroach infestation in the band house wasn’t bad enough, the bricks that regularly sailed through their windows hardly contributed to a sense of comfort. But they plowed on, dressing like they were homeless, making films, publishing zines, and bringing a young Bruce LaBruce into the fold to act as their onstage Gerard Malanga. He talks about the sanctuary Fifth Column established beyond the homophobic punk scene and the gay community’s thinly veiled misogyny.
“The real world sucks, and the world we created didn’t suck,” is how Azar neatly puts it. Even if the fighting and creative tensions eventually became too much, Kathleen Hanna’s gushing presence powerfully emphasizes how big Fifth Column’s boom ultimately was.
Director Kevin Hegge will be in attendance when She Said Boom: The Story of Fifth Column screens at the RIO Theatre on Thursday (August 22) at 9:30 p.m.