Gainesville has always been a city with a prominent music scene, spawning the likes of Less Than Jake and Against Me!, as well as lesser known acts like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. With a thriving scene, lots of venues, cheap rent and a student population, it's long been known as a place where bands can try to get a start.
This was the case in Gainesville in 1995, when three local punk moms, Margaret, Rachel and Tina entered the local “F*** the Government contest. Without a band to begin with, they came together to as Dioxin Dolly and write the song “Frogfly Buzzing” as their entry. In the song, they railed about the conditions they were facing as mothers on welfare, as well as host of other situational topics including men and women, war, government, welfare, money, food, drugs, creativity, mass media, mothers and children. In the few minutes of the song, it managed to summon a perfect situational perspective at a specific place and time for the three women.
The song won.
Filmmaker Luci Westphal, a friend of the women and a recent transplant to Gainesville from Germany, captured the women in a short documentary. She got a recording of the song, documented the lives of the trio and spoke with them women about their perspectives on the issues presented in the song. It was a somewhat personal project shot on VHS, edited and shown at a local punk bar.
And then life went on.
A decade later, Westphal was wrapping up production on All God's Children, a documentary about child abuse within the missionary community, when she decided to reexamine her own perspective on filmmaking, getting back to a more DIY production style with no crew and just one camera. She decided to return to Gainesville and revisit her old friends, to find out how their lives in 2006 compared to where they had been in 1996.
This sets the stage for All's Well and Fair, a documentary that checks in on the three women, finds out where their lives have taken them, and to ask how their opinions on the themes first discussed in the first documentary have changed. And it's set on top of a stellar punk soundtrack of female voices, mostly from Gainesville. Here's a hope that the soundtrack sees release as well. In addition to “Frogfly Buzzing," the song that started the story, every single track is a serious rager.
Presented as a web series, each chapter either discusses one of themes or simply looks in on where the past 10 years have taken the women. Gainesville has changed; The Hardback Cafe, their primary punk home in 1996, is now a Thai place. The women have changed too. There are college degrees, the children from the first documentary are now teenagers and there are new kids, and some things remain the same. But in a sense, you get a look at what a decade of growth and responsibility does for parents in the punk scene.
Now in its 12th episode, the site launches a new chapter every Monday and Thursday, and it's as much a social experiment in its presentation as it is in its subject matter. With a robust multimedia component, viewers are invited to get involved with social media and to contribute their own video responses. It has a heavy DIY feel intent on expanding the idea of a scene, bringing fresh faces and voices together to discuss issues that have been around since well before 1996, and to find new ways to discuss them.
A primary reason this works is the accessible nature of the documentary's subjects. Like the everyman that is Michael Essington in Last One To Die, you have three women who are actually quite ordinary, with stories we can all relate to. They are grown up punks, they are moms, they are dealing with everyday life. This makes them the heroes we know best, because we know folks just like them who get up every day and just live life as needed. Their story is our story, it's the story of our friends, it's the story of the people we look up to and hold dear. It's remarkably charming and intensely interesting because it's a remarkable story with everyday stars.
As Rachel stated in one of the episodes, "I stand for everyone that deserves to be respected." Westphal has given voice to three women that deserve to be heard, and by adding the multimedia conversation, given voice to us all. It's an innovative way of addressing an age-old idea, the concept of creating a scene of like-minded and not so like-minded people where they gather (in this case online). It expands upon the idea of the scene, removing geographic limitations. Just like punk rock said, "here's three chords, now start a band," All's Well and Fair says, "here's the topic, now start a conversation."
Hopefully people will speak up.
Watch it online: All's Well and Fair