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Girls Rock (on film)


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Courtesy of Arne Johnson and Shane King

In the indie film world, Arne Johnson of Oakland has hit it big with his first documentary, Girls Rock! This offbeat film about Portland’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls will be released in seven cities on March 7— including at Berkeley’s Shattuck Cinemas. That’s unheard-of distribution for a documentary not directed by Michael Moore.

Johnson’s inspiration was alternative rocker Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney. “I heard her speaking at an event, and someone asked her if rock ‘n’ roll was dead. She said, ‘No, I just got back from teaching at a Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp, and it was full of young girls who want to rock.’ The way she talked about it just put my hairs on end.”

Girls Rock! shows how 8- to 18-year-olds build friendships and self-esteem while blasting power chords and banging drums.

Johnson and his business partner, Shane King, visited the camp and shot footage of a concert before getting approval to make the film. “At first [the camp’s directors] were a little suspicious of a couple of guys from California coming up to tell the story of this camp,” says King. “We had to earn their trust. Apparently, they had been approached by a reality show that wanted to make a show about the kids getting voted off, like American Idol.”

There is none of that kind of mean streak in Girls Rock!’s celebration of childhood and female self-empowerment. “It was just a mind-blowing experience to see these little girls up on stage expressing so clearly and freely what they were feeling,” says Johnson.

For information about the film or about a new Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls coming to San Francisco this summer, go to www.girlsrockmovie.com.

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