JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Rise Above: The Tribe 8 Documentary (Director: Tracy Flannigan) - May 16, 2003

Rise Above: The Tribe 8 Documentary

4 4
80 min.

Reviewed at the 2003 Inside Out Lesbian and Gay International Film Festival
Dyke punk rock as onstage therapy

“We’re open about S&M,” says Lynee, Tribe 8 lead singer—and just about anything else as Tracy Flannigan has so unstintingly captured in this 60-minute look into this dyke band extraordinaire.

Starting with their controversial gig at the 1994 Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, the film chronicles four years in the lives of these reformed addicts who take to the stage, strip off their shirts and rage loud, long and hard about their past traumas and the plight of womyn everywhere.

The Canadian connection is bass player Tantrum, who joined the troupe in San Francisco, abandoning Toronto for this heady scene (even though she confesses “the music kind of bores me”), yet living in fear of deportation due to her “unofficial” status in the U.S.

Since their shows are not on the mainstream circuit, all of the members must find other, time-flexible jobs between engagements. Of mixed race (like Tantrum), Leslie has talent for tattooing. She makes the wry observation that a few decades after she dies, all of her body art will disappear from the planet as her human canvasses also expire.

The band’s mantra is to be “goofy” on stage and at that they exceed expectations. Lynee revels in prancing about in sport boxers with a plastic dick lurking incongruously in the fabric. But it is often unleashed as a male member from the frenetic crowd is cajoled into taking stage and “give Tribe 8 a blow job.” Licking heavy leather boots is also part of the fun.

One of the most memorable shots is the band members falling into the waiting arms of their fans, producing imagery of being carried off with love to a funeral pyre. And the slogan “shoot rapists, not heroin,” will resonate long after the credits fade to black.

It’s truly an extraordinary group: near-neophytes banding together with the common threads of sexuality, previous substance abuse, failed relationships, and the difficultly of coming out provide a vat of emotional glue. They love to be in-your-face, although once off stage (we are told) they are far removed from their theatrical personas.

Inevitably, they start to break apart and move on to separate paths. The desire to “experience the rapture of being alive,” which—initially—brought them together, sends them back home, along bike paths and into other means of more personal self-expression (arts, writing, film).

Which is to say they’re right: “You can’t really save anybody.” But through their common cause and ensemble venting, each one has found enough of themselves to have the confidence to vacate their oh-so-quirky nest. JWR

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Director - Tracy Flannigan
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Brit Films.TV Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film and Video Festival
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