The first IFF Boston screening at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge, was director Drew Stone’s documentary “All Ages: The Boston Hardcore Film,” which chronicles the rise of the Boston hardcore music scene during the early 1980s. When Stone took the stage, he delivered his brief introduction to a crowd of mostly middle-aged adults, who seemed to have a very personal attachment to the subject matter. “When I was working on this film, I never felt like it was my film. I always felt like it was our film,” he said gesturing to the audience during his presentation.
As someone unfamiliar with the hardcore scene, I chose the documentary hoping to learn about the influential bands and the ideals of the movement. And I definitely got some of that since, “All Ages” taught me about Boston groups like SS Decontrol and Jerry’s Kids, explaining the political and social context in which they rose to prominence. It also exposed me to how the straightedge culture developed, as a reaction to heavy drinking and drugs of the era.
While the film was certainly educational for me, the experience felt very superficial, because the documentary relies heavily on anecdotal interviews from people in the scene. The movie seemed like a big pat on the back to those involved, once I recognized that the majority of the people onscreen were seated around me. The behavior of the crowd further affirmed the sentiment: viewers cheered loudly for the people they knew, laughed at inside jokes, and a few even loudly conversed with each other.
One aspect that fans and bands stressed in their interviews was how raw the hardcore scene was. Inexperienced musicians played fast, and attendees at the shows engaged in dangerous moshing. Appropriately, but rather unfortunately this same unpolished nature is something that carries over into the technical aspects of the film.
Pieces of audio have completely different volume levels, some barely audible, while others make you wish you had earplugs. Transitions between title cards repeat the same cheesy effects and music abruptly cuts out before someone starts talking on camera. Subjects are also interviewed against different backdrops which are distracting, like a Boston street corner with tourists moving about.
The biggest pet peeve of mine that this documentary violates though, is that the director himself appears in interviews. I’ve always felt that it’s either a cop out because they don’t have enough experts or an ego thing on the part of the director.
If you were part of the Boston hardcore scene or someone who was into hardcore music in the 80s, “All Ages” will be a trip down memory lane for you. However if you’re anyone else, you’ll learn a bit about hardcore music before you become tired of the inside humor.
My Grade: C
IFF Boston runs through Wednesday May 2, 2012. For more information on the festival, please visit www.iffboston.org.