Summer program helps Girls Rock!

In Portland Oregon the mecca of ’90s riot grrrl indie rock there’s a building dedicated to cultivating a new crop of strong female rockers. As its name would suggest the Rock ’n’ Roll Camp for Girls is a summer program that teaches girls aged eight through 18 how to play instruments form a band write songs perform in front of an audience and generally rock out. With celebrity lady rocker camp counsellors like Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein and The Gossip’s Beth Ditto it’s not surprising that the camp also focuses on building healthy self-esteem.

Girls Rock! follows one session of campers zeroing in on four girls in particular: Palace an eight-year-old who channels her feelings about her somewhat stressful home life through screeching vocals; Amelia an eccentrically creative young girl who likes to write rock songs about her dog; Laura a teen who struggles with self-esteem problems and loves death metal; and Misty who has battled her way through foster homes and drug problems to find self-worth in playing the bass. Each girl comes to rock camp for different reasons but they all leave with the same results: increased confidence gained by playing music and learning to co-operate and collaborate with other girls by forming a band.

Girls Rock! isn’t as compelling as much-lauded kids-done-good docs like Spellbound or Mad Hot Ballroom but the filmmakers do a good job of creating stories out of the featured girls’ journeys. It’s actually more effective as an advertisement for the camp: anyone with a young daughter or little sister will immediately start thinking of ways to make it down to Portland to attend a summer session. The camp is cool and while the girls do have a lot of fun there are also a lot of tough character-building moments that help them grow in the long run.

While the feminist statistics that the filmmakers use to show the different ways that boys and girls learn are presented a little awkwardly the point is a valuable one. Being a tween or teenage girl is tough and anything that helps make it a little less tough is a godsend. Especially if it involves rocking out.