Girls Rock!

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Shadow Distribution

An inevitable perfect companion piece to the similarly themed "Rock School," Shane King and Arne Johnson's entertaining documentary concentrates on the Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls. Based in Portland, Ore., the school is designed to instruct girls ages 8-18 in the fine art of kicking out the jams.

Actually, the camp is interested not only in sparking musical interest but also in promoting a positive self-image among its young students. Thus, in between their musical tutelage at the hands of various members of such female bands as Sleater-Kinney and Gossip, the students are given classes in self-defense and other subjects.

But the main agenda is the music instruction. The girls are immersed in a concentrated one-week program in which they are encouraged to form bands, write songs and ultimately deliver a concert performance.

The filmmakers use a trippy visual style employing animation, vintage educational films and plenty of scarifying statistics attesting to the difficulties faced by females in today's society. ("Between ages 9-15, girls who say 'I'm happy the way I am' drop from 60% to 29%' " is a typical example).

Less seriously, the film also points ominously at the encroaching danger of the popularity of teen pop.

Among the students profiled in depth are Laura, a Korean girl from Oklahoma who is obsessed with death metal; Misty, who despite her youth already has weathered such travails as drug addiction and homelessness; Amelia, an 8-year-old writing an ambitious song cycle about her pet Chihuahua; and Palace, a budding punk diva.

Quite appropriately, the film's soundtrack includes numerous selections from such female-centered bands as Veruca Salt, Bikini Kill, Le Tigre and the Donnas.
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