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07.02.08

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Phaedra

The Gits

One disc; Adrenaline Records/Liberation Entertainment; $19.95

By Steve Palopoli


Here is a three-word summary of how intense this documentary is: Joan Jett cries. We don't exactly see her cry, of course—c'mon, she's Joan Jett—but during her interview, she gets so choked up she has to stop for a moment, and seeing rock's tough girl overwhelmed by emotion and unable to speak somehow says it all. Mia Zapata was a tough girl, too, at least onstage and in her songs. As the interviews in this labor-of-love doc reveal, offstage the lead singer of the almost-famous punk band the Gits had a big heart and was known to be shy and reserved. The film's name is deceptive—it isn't really about the Gits, as a phenomenon or even as a band—as much as it's about Zapata and the people that she touched while she was alive. Besides being lumped in with the Seattle scene in the '90s, the Gits never got a chance to leave much of a mark. But by the time they were ready to release their second album, they had gotten a lot of attention for the band's fast-and-heavy punk sound and especially for Zapata's powerful voice and dark lyrics. Sadly, that's where Zapata's story becomes a true-crime story—she was raped and murdered in 1993—and director Kerri O'Kane lets the film follow down that path. The Gits becomes a mystery—who did it and why?—on the one hand, and on the other a chronicle of how her death tore the people around her apart. In a larger sense, it also tore apart the Northwest rock scene. O'Kane provides an unflinching look at the damage, as band members talk about hiring a P.I. to investigate their friends, and also explores how her friends and family tried to make something positive out of their anger, grief and fear. Anyone who doesn't know how this story turned out will be shocked and awed by the end, to be sure.


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