When Filmage was first announced there were mixed reviews. The punk fans certainly didn’t sit on the fence, feeling either excited or infuriated by the prospect.
The recent trend of documentaries about punk rock has been seen in the form of NOFX’s Backstage Passport and The Other ‘F’ Word. Filmage documents some of the genre’s finest, so to me it places itself right up there with these other high quality films.
Through Filmage we see the history of an undervalued trio. It includes the process of the three members starting up ALL after the previous lead singer quit to pursue a degree. The documentary is filmed through the view of Bill Stevenson – drummer and founder of both bands. The filmmakers are clearly huge fans, taking on the mammoth task of recording a career that spans over 35 years. Right from the beginning there’s no fear to delve into the details no matter how personal.
The documentary starts with Dave Grohl stating a fact that members of the punk rock community have known for decades; the Descendents are one of the most underrated band of all time. Starting right at the origins of the band, Filmage shows the viewer a little more about the history of both ALL and The Descendents. It starts right at the beginning with their childhood and how they joined the band. These little clips work to strengthen fans appreciation for the bands back catalogue even more. Each stage of the bands careers are examined in detail, particularly the influence the albums had on the fans.
These fans aren’t just anyone, they’re all punk rock celebrities. From mainstream rock stars like Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age) and Mark Hoppus (Blink 182, +44) to punk legends like Fat Mike (NOFX), Brett Gurewitz (Bad Religion) and Brian Baker (Minor Threat, Bad Religion.) The great breadth of guests makes the documentary feel as fast as a Descendents song, I can guarantee you’ll be demanding more. The highlight for me was that Bill Stevenson’s illness and the death of his father are explored in depth for the first time ever. It adds a touching dimension to tracks in the 2004 album Cool To Be You, particularly the track One More Day.
My only complaint about the documentary is the lack of time they spend on talking about Cool To Be You. It was the author’s first Descendents album, so naturally I expected more emphasis to be on that album.
Overall Filmage is an outstanding piece of work. It took 2 years for the film to be released after it had been finished which is testament to true punk rock DIY ethics. If you are a fan of early Californian punk rock, the history of the genre or just want to find out about The Descendents and ALL then Filmage is a must watch!