This year's QFest, the LGBT film festival, is brimming with Philadelphia premieres, and Karthy Fix's documentary "Le Tigre: Who Took the Bomp?" (USA 2010, 70 minutes) begins with a meteoric rise just like the one Le Tigre has experienced. While the rocket they launch, à la 7th grade study of Robert Goddard, blows its parachute, Le Tigre just goes up and up and up.
Many in the music scene remember Kathleen Hanna from her days in Bikini Kill. She fronts this band with JD Samson at keys and Johanna Fateman on guitar, as we follow Le Tigre's tour from Tokyo to Sydney and around the world. All three musicians play guitar, and although Johanna is the backbone of the electronic music, they were a team in everything. They came together in New York, and played together successfully for five years, but it took signing with a major label to make their final tour truly their last. Le Tigre didn't break up-they are just not touring anymore.
In costumes reminiscent of the '60s, and as naturally wired as Saturday morning live-action characters, these women are wisecracking, clever, and twisted in a really goofy, really cool way. Within and without our community, there are jokes about white women with guitars, when rock music is all white men with guitars, with very few exceptions. These women are creating music, creating style, and inspiring men and women around the world.
Hanna comes from the RiotGrrl incubator, but found mainstream music critics calling her "a fat retarded slut who didn't know what she was doing," and the punk community branding her a sellout for reaching a somewhat wider audience. Having your cake and eating it too is a helluva difficult thing.
In flight, in hotel rooms, in cars, we meet fans and we see Johanna's foibles, and JD's costume hints and the key to her highly energized performances. In fact, this band puts on a show in which each woman is athletic, musical, and so "what are you doing after the show?"
Fix's directorial debut film gives the flavor of a touring band, provides a huge shot in the arm for what feminism is today, and shows how being true to yourself sometimes has the greatest cost, but yields the greatest satisfaction.
See "Le Tigre: Who Took the Bomp?" on a double bill with Gina Hirsch's short comedy "You Move Me" (USA 2010, 12 minutes) on July 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the Ritz at the Bourse, 400 Ranstead Street. Visit http://www.qfest.com. QFest runs through July 19.