LA street punk documentary: Decline of Western Civilization #3

Tom Boland (
Sun, 16 Aug 1998 09:28:58 -0700 (PDT)
FWD  San Francisco Chronicle  August 6, 1998


     Neva Chonin

When director Penelope Spheeris set out to make her third ``Decline of
Western Civilization'' documentary, she expected to have a good time, hear
some music and make a little money in the process. Instead she found
herself sucked into the claustrophobic world of her subjects, L.A.'s street
punks, whose compelling presence stole the film and refused to give it

``When you do a documentary, it goes its own path, and the path that this
one took was that of the homelessness and hopelessness of these kids,''
says Spheeris, who appears tomorrow night at San Francisco's Red Vic Movie

Unlike the original film's punks, whose music and lifestyle were proactive
protests against the banality of modern life, ``Part III's'' street kids
are engulfed by despair. ``In the first wave, punk manifested itself very
graphically as anger,'' Spheeris says. ``Now I think they feel powerless
and helpless.

``Their way of protest is to do nothing, just live on the street and do a
lot of drinking, knowing that they don't have the money to go to school and
they can't go home.'' Unfortunately, potential distributors, expecting a
blithe film about a colorful music scene, balked when presented with
``Decline, Part III's'' heavy subject matter. Though the film won the
Freedom of Expression Award at the Sundance Film Festival, the Red Vic is
the first theater in the country to book the film for more than one night.

But Spheeris, who financed the film herself, is determined to see
``Decline, Part III'' widely distributed, and not just to earn her money
back: Any profits will benefit organizations for homeless children.

The director does her best to stay in contact with many of the film's
subjects, which is not always easy.

``They're nomads,'' she says. ``They're like the resistance, going from
city to city, hopping trains and meeting up in different places.''


** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is
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