Covering a span of 30 years, Positive Force / More Than A Witness documents the group’s origins, the creation of its communal house, FBI harassment, and the rise of a vibrant underground that burst into the mainstream amidst controversy over both the means and the ends of the movement. In the best punk fashion, Positive Force has applied creative DIY tactics and radical critiques to issues of homelessness, hunger, racism, corporate globalization, sexism, homophobia, war, gentrification, aging, and animal/ earth liberation, while struggling to constructively address conflicting dynamics and visions within the group itself.
Punk activist collective Positive Force DC emerged in 1985, rising from the creative, politically-charged ferment of DC punk’s Revolution Summer. Born in a dynamic local scene sparked by Bad Brains, Minor Threat, and Rites of Spring, a handful of young activists also drew inspiration from UK anarcho-punks Crass and the original “Positive Force” band Seven Seconds to become one of the most long-lasting and influential exponents of punk politics.
This feature-length film by Robin Bell skillfully mixes rare archival footage (including electrifying live performances from Fugazi, Bikini Kill, Rites of Spring, Nation of Ulysses, Anti-Flag, and more) with new interviews of key PF activists including co-founder Mark Andersen (co-author of Dance of Days) and Jenny Toomey (Simple Machines, Tsunami) as well as supporters such as Ian MacKaye, Jello Biafra, Dave Grohl, Ted Leo, Riot Grrrl co-founders Allison Wolfe and Kathleen Hanna, and many more. Covering a span of 30 years, More Than a Witness documents PF’s Reagan-era origins, the creation of its communal house, FBI harassment, and the rise of a vibrant underground that burst into the mainstream amid controversy over both the means and the ends of the movement.
Through it all, Positive Force has persisted, remaining deeply rooted in their hometown, reaching out to those in need and building bridges between diverse communities, while regularly bringing punk protest to the front doors of the powers-that-be. Encompassing an ever-evolving cast of characters, the all-volunteer group has helped to nurture several generations of activists. In the best punk fashion, PF has applied creative DIY tactics and radical critiques to issues of homelessness, hunger, racism, corporate globalization, sexism, homophobia, war, gentrification, and animal/earth liberation, while struggling to constructively address conflicting dynamics and visions within the group itself.
Run time: 69 minutes.
The filmmakers’ portion of the proceeds from the sale of the DVD will benefit the We Are Family senior outreach network.
Wake Up! A Profile of Positive Force DC (28 minutes, 1991, a film by David Weinstein) A powerful snapshot of Positive Force at its early 90’s peak, just before the eruption of Riot Grrrl and “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” with a special focus on the role of the PF communal house.
Green Hair, Grey Hair (28 minutes, 2008, a film by Katrina Taylor and Rachell Williams) Award-winning short documentary that spotlights the unlikely – but transformative – alliance between inner-city seniors and young punk rockers fostered by PF’s work with the “We Are Family” senior outreach network.
Punks, Votes, Riots (21 minutes, 2014, outtake from More Than a Witness)
Live at Positive Force (33 minutes) Bonus performances by Fugazi, Seven Seconds, Chumbawamba, Anti-Flag, Soulside, The Evens, and Beefeater.
“Positive Force is the activist group that has helped define Washington, DC’s legendary punk rock scene.”
–Eric Brace, Washington Post Weekend
“Positive Force is an effort to recover the sense of community, ideals and purpose that had made the punk movement so inspiring.”
“Those damned drums are keeping me up all night.”
–George Bush on the Punk Percussion Protest, quoted in the New York Times
“Positive Force knows that music affects people and people effect change.”
–Lori Elaine Taylor, Smithsonian Folkways Records
About the Director:
Robin Bell, born and based in Washington DC, is an award-winning videographer, artist, professor at the Corcoran College of Art & Design, and Founder and Owner of Bell Visuals, a boutique production company focused on supporting social justice groups and environmentally sustainable companies.
Directed By: Robin Bell
Publisher: PM Press
Format: DVD NTSC
Length: 180 minutes
Size: 7.7 by 5.5
Subjects: Music-Punk, Politics-Activism