Beyond the Barrios

Mas Alla de los Gritos shows the importance of being Spic

Photo by Chris ZieglerMás Allá de los Gritos (Beyond the Screams) is the Greed of punk cinema, a 1999 documentary covering 25 years of Latino punk history in 29 minutes that barrel by faster than a straightedge tune. It begins with Zapruder-slow footage of Latinos moshing while director Martín Sorrondeguy (the ex-Los Crudos singer and current Santa Ana resident who edited Más Alláfrom 80 hours of tape) traces punk's fury to the early '90s: "What started happening politically in the U.S. pissed us off so much and we were feeling so targeted and cornered as a community that we began writing songs about it."

What follows is a blur: Latino punk pioneers like East LA locals the Brats, Plugz, Zeros and Bags; the spread of political punk throughout Latin America in the '80s in the face of fascist governments; and Latino punk's reemergence in the U.S. during the early '90s to combat the twin devils of Proposition 187 and NAFTA. There's archival footage of Alice Armendáriz (a.k.a. Bag) barking through performances, rare album covers and fliers of shows across the Hispanic world, and reels of such still-vital bands as Subsistencia and Kontra Attaque. In one hilarious musical interlude, INS agents beat immigrants with nightsticks while Revolución X's sneering "I'm Making my Future with the Border Patrol" provides ironic commentary.

Sorrondeguy deftly builds his documentary around the always-touchy issue of race in a genre that claims it has transcended color. Early in Más Allá, Armendáriz maintains that everyone involved in punk shared an outcast identity. But five minutes later, Spitboy singer Michelle Christine Gonzales glumly observes, "People in the punk scene are notorious for saying 'racism sucks,' but . . . if you're too brown or too down, then you're going to piss somebody off or make somebody uncomfortable." Sorrondeguy then includes footage of himself ridiculing American punks whose most urgent real-life problems are missed allowances. "[Pampered punks] were talking about anti-war stuff while they were living in comfy-ass suburbs," Sorrondeguy says with a laugh. "What the fuck did they know about war?"

But Sorrondeguy quickly concludes the race argument with an excerpt from a Los Crudos show in Chicago's Pilsen barrio. The cinema vérité-style camera follows him around a tiny basement revealing why Los Crudos sings only in Spanish regardless of audience—not for ethnocentric reasons, he argues, but because it's the ultimate fuck-you to the dictators of all society. Lecture over, Sorrondeguy roars Los Crudos' most famous composition, "That's Right, We're that Spic Band." The crowd—Latino, Polish, Czech and Asian, even plain or white—screams with him, proudly proclaiming themselves spics. Who cares about skin tone, they say, when we're all equally screwed?

Más Allá De Los Gritos, directed and produced by Martín Sorrondeguy, screens at The Centro Cultural De México, 1522 S. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 953-9305. Mon., 7: 30 p.m. $5 suggested donation. All ages.

 
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