[Trigger warning: mentions of sexual violence]
“A woman is only respected when she sings well and in tune,” a female musician says at one point in Marilina Giménez’s documentary A Girl’s Band. The film chronicles the lives of the women in Buenos Aires who choose to be disrespectable, who make rock and Reggaeton music in the heavily male-dominated music industry. Filmmaker Giménez has very personal ties with the world she is chronicling; previously being a part of the musical trio Yilet some years ago, she spends the duration of the film following her former bandmates and old friends as they navigate the underground music scene, travelling between bars and clubs and festivals as both musicians and activists.
Being a female musician in Argentina is inherently political, regardless of one’s level of fame or notoriety. Whether Giménez is interviewing pop stars or underground bands, all women detail their struggle to be recognized and respected within the sexist music industry. ‘Ni Una Menos’ is the phrase that gets repeated over and over: ‘not one more,’ the motto of an Argentinian grassroots feminist movement against sexual violence and misogyny. All art is political, and in A Girl’s Band this is truer than ever: girl bands play at feminist rallies, demonstrate for legal and safe abortions, and use their catchy Reggaeton songs to critique rape culture.
A Girl’s Band is at its best and boldest when it shows the bands perform in their entirety, their eclectic and incredibly rhythmic songs coupled with neon strobe lights and backup dancers. A highlight is watching lesbian rapper Chocolate Remix perform her song ‘Ni Una Menos’ at a festival, which rallies against sexual violence and sexism.
Yet, despite the wealth and diversity of its subject matter, A Girl’s Band lacks the focus and cohesion to do it justice. The documentary dives into themes of misogyny and homophobia and the state of the music industry in Buenos Aires, yet doesn’t engage with any of them fully. It meanders between bands and topics, following narrative strands here and there, only to abandon them and later randomly pick them up again. Furthermore, Giménez can’t seem to decide whether she wants the documentary to be about the specific issues that girls bands in Argentina face, or be more of a look into their everyday life. This is disappointing, as the brief glimpses Giménez gives into the life on tour of her former band YiLet are interesting, but highly elusive.
By the end of A Girl’s Band, you have the impression that the subculture it explores is deeply fascinating, but that you haven’t learned much about it at all. Whilst the footage of the titular all-female fronted bands performing their songs is exhilarating and impressive, the documentary jumps too quickly between interviews, musicians and thematic threads to form a comprehensive picture of the life of its subjects.
[Amelie Voges – she/her]