Washington D.C.’s underground music scene forever altered the definition of punk, transforming it from nihilist towards something constructive. Within this unlikely town in 1979, generations, musical genres and powerful personalities created a volatile mix that changed music and culture around the world.
“Punk the Capital, Straight from Washington D.C.,” directed and produced by veteran D.C. filmmakers James Schneider and Paul Bishow, captures the essence of D.C. punk from its source and steers shy of nostalgia, making this history relevant 35 years later.
Scheduled for completion in late 2014, “Punk the Capital” illuminates the early punk scene with a focus on the infamous Madams Organ artists collective. Stepping inside this anarchic rowhouse transports the viewer to the late 70’s, a time full of discovery and sense of possibility for well known figures such as Henry Rollins and Ian MacKaye. It was also where seminal bands such as the Bad Brains, Black Market Baby, and the Teen Idles took off and where the sound and ideas behind “D.C. harDCore” truly began.
Since then, D.C. punk continues to leave its mark on not just punk and rock, but on the broader American culture. “This documentary, ‘Punk the Capital’ is a portrait of how the small D.C. punk scene became a powerful entity,” says director James Schneider, “Even though the D.C. scene is the subject, punk is the story.”
James Schneider, a D.C. native who grew up in the skate and punk scene of the early-mid 1980s, has spent the last 20 years making and producing films. His filmography includes; “Blue is Beautiful” (1997) featuring Dischord recording artists The Make-up, “The Band that Met the Sound Beneath” (2012) featuring a Chilean punk band, and “Young Oceans of Cinema” (2011) which premiered at the 2012 edition of the Rotterdam International Film Festival. Schneider’s award-winning work has been screened at film festivals and museums around the world.
Paul Bishow moved to D.C. in the late 1970s and was immediately drawn to the intimacy of the punk scene. He was a founding member of the I am Eye Film Forum, and his footage has appeared in many documentaries including Don Lett’s “Punk Attitude” (2005) and Mandy Stein’s “Bad Brains, Band in DC” (2012). Mostly using Super-8 film, he made 8 feature length movies and dozens of short films.
Over the last 12 years, Schneider and Bishow have been compiling concert footage, interviewing artists, and connecting with the people and ideas that changed music history forever. “Punk the Capital” takes us on a punk journey from the inside out, sharing the rich past of D.C.’s punk/harDCore scenes, and maybe more importantly, inspiring future generations.