Screaming Females (Documentary Review, Stream)

by Steven Spoerl


Since this site resumed regular coverage, there’s been a few excellent music-focused documentaries that have earned coverage. Girlpool, Pops Staples, The Epoch, and Butch Walker were the central subjects of all the preceding 2015 docs but tonight’s film brings Screaming Females‘ more recent paths to light. It’s a definitive capture of one of this generation’s most exciting bands as they continue their unlikely ascension. Before focusing all of the attention on the Lance Bangs-directed portrait of the perennial site favorites, it’s worth bringing up a few other great items to have recently surfaced as well. For the full streams, there was 100%’s hauntingly minimalist It gets darker and, as always, the newest additions to NPR’s vaunted First Listen series (Laura Marling’s Short Movie and JEFF The Brotherhood’s Wasted On The Dream are particularly memorable). Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly was also just released a week ahead of schedule and it seems set to continue elevating his increasingly impressive career. All of those things are worth spending time getting to know but they’re not what this post’s about- that distinction, as stated, goes to Lance Bangs’ diaristic Screaming Females short.

One thing that Screaming Females brings into sharp focus over its two-part installment is guitarist/vocalist Marissa Paternoster’s battle with an illness that became so severe that it forced the band to cancel an array of tour dates in support of Ugly. Around the mid-point of the documentary, Paternoster is in visible pain when she recalls the events, all the while remaining admirably steadfast in her convictions, never wanting to let anyone down. Paternoster was eventually diagnosed with fibromyalgia in addition to her mononucleosis. Never has their commitment to a DIY ethos been delivered with more clarity than it is in those harrowing minutes. While Screaming Females finds its voice in the opening minutes, with bassist King Mike providing a short, impact-heavy, list for why the band plays as many shows as they do. As the film progress, the band’s natural rapport cuts through the group vignettes like a knife; this is a band that clearly enjoys each other’s company, which is endlessly important. Memories, both painful and entertaining, are recounted, while the future’s left wide open.

In approximately 20 minutes, Lance Bangs (who assembled everything masterfully, with a well-informed eye) manages to place the kind of spotlight on Screaming Females that they deserve, emphasizing the exact traits that cause me to continue to rally behind this band with no reservations. It’s a committed tale of a dedicated band- one who refuses to lose sight of the intangible elements that built their career in its earliest stages. There’s a genuine honesty present in Screaming Females that’s impossible to ignore, providing a crystallized account of how and why the band operates. Determination and passion are present in nearly every frame and, as each new piece of information is given, it’s abundantly clear that this trio of people are hell-bent on continuing to pursue the things they love most with no hesitation. In the end, the documentary doesn’t just wind up being heartfelt but it also succeeds in being legitimately inspirational. We could all learn a thing or two from this kind of passion.

Watch Screaming Females below and order Rose Mountain (the band’s finest work to date) from Don Giovanni here.