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By Sally Foster | September 20, 2006

Based on the book by screenwriter Steven Blush, “American Hardcore” chronicles the hardcore punk movement that emerged in underground clubs in the late 1970s and early ’80s. A largely under-documented phenomenon, the hardcore scene wasn’t about getting famous or making money; these kids had things to say and were going to do so as loudly as possible. The documentary recounts the very beginnings of the movement as the forerunners of the scene, such as Black Flag, MDC and Bad Brains, toured around the country, gathering a growing following of nonconformist kids. Over the next couple of years, new hardcore bands cropped up across America, and the movement grew in intensity until its eventual demise in the mid-80’s.

Adopting the DIY tenets of the hardcore scene, director Paul Rachman and writer Blush drove across the country garnering interviews with some of the major players in the movement, including H.R. of the Bad Brains and Black Flag’s Henry Rollins. The film combines highlights extracted from hundreds of hours of interview footage with archival coverage of the original concerts shot by fans, not to mention some pretty awesome graphics. The result is a clean, extremely well cut film that carries us right through the history of the scene. Rachman and Blush have done an amazing job of piecing this film together; each clip leads perfectly into the next, punctuated by the loud, angry tones that characterized the scene’s music, ultimately coming together to reconstruct the entire hardcore movement from beginning to end.

Every element of the movie, from the archival footage to the interviews, carries a raw, unpolished aesthetic that echoes the subject matter. Much like the hardcore scene itself, this film is more about facts and the ideas behind the movement than looking nice – which, in turn, creates a tone that fits the film perfectly. “American Hardcore” not only documents a fascinating part of American history, but also leaves us wondering how (and if) this era’s youth will manage to find a voice of their own.

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