Documentary Here To Be Heard: The Story of The Slits tells the story of all-woman / woman-led punk band The Slits, from their formation in grim mid-seventies London, through to their initial demise in ‘82, surprising resurrection in 2005, and eventual end five years later. The quartet of women who formed the best known ‘punk’ iteration of the band – Ari Up, Viv Albertine, Tessa Pollitt, and Palmolive – come across as strong, fearless, and driven. In a deeply sexist world they rightly refused to be the kind of invisible, silent women that conservative British society wanted. Despite facing incomprehension from some and outright hostility from others – as Viv Albertine says, faced with the group on the street, men “couldn’t decide if they wanted to fuck us or kill us” – The Slits remained dedicated to their vision.
Through interviews and archive footage the group, their contemporaries, and friends tell The Slits’ story. It’s refreshing also to see the inclusion of early founder members amongst the better known interviewees, which helps locate the group in the chaotic world of punk London. Other contributions from the likes of filmmaker, DJ, and one-time Slits manager, Don Letts and punk professor Vivien Goldman offer a broader context.
Ultimately, The Slits created their own sound, combining the energy and attitude of punk, reggae, and even ‘world music’. As a subculture, punk offered The Slits, and many others, the possibility of a true alternative and a way out. Driven by its own punk-aesthetic – bold intertitles, archive celluloid, and so on – Badgley’s film is a celebration of the band and their achievements.
Disclaimer: Jack is an occasional programmer for Sydney Underground Film Festival, but this film was programmed by GrooveScooter, and is nothing to do with him.