Review: POLY STYRENE: I AM A CLICHÉ – UK Virtual Cinema Release Date – 5th March 2021
Perfect film to watch on International Women’s History Month!
Prior to watching this film, I’d never heard of Poly Styrene or her band X-Ray Spex, I knew about the rock and punk scenes and some of the other trends and issues raised in this documentary film.
Poly Styrene, born Marianne Joan Elliot-Said, was born in 1957 to an English mother and Somali father, so was of mixed heritage – In 1976, she was also the first female of colour to front a rock band.
We are introduced to the film by her daughter, Celeste Bell, who co-directed it with Paul Sng, as she goes through her mother’s archives, telling her (and their) story.
Take a look at the trailer…
I am equally inspired and impressed by this wonderful women, as a woman of colour myself, living in London, England, I can identify with many of the issues that Poly Styrene, or Marianne, as she was as a child, grew up with. She grew up with racism from both sides, being of mixed heritage, she never knew where she fit in.
Although, I’m not of mixed heritage myself, my light skin tone makes others assume that I am, and the constant questions – from other kids and even to this very day in 2021, by both black and white people, I still have to deal with the question of “Where are you from?” – My answer is “London, Born ‘n’ Bred”, they’re never satisfied with that, I can tell you!
The film takes you on a journey of her life in chronological order, including her giving birth to her only child, daughter, Celeste Bell and we hear from Celeste, herself the unusual upbringing she had and how their relationship played out until the end.
Celeste mentioned being bored in recording studios whilst her mother worked or watching her be interviewed, it’s exactly what my son used to say about me, working mother myself, I used to take my only son with me to the dance studio and he spent many hours sat in the corner whilst I taught classes, sorry Celeste, but us mum’s don’t always have a babysitter!
I’m sure childcare issues didn’t really affect the middle-class white men who ran the industry in which Poly Styrene was trying to make a career in…but that’s another conversation.
The film shows us some of her highs and lows, sprinkled with original archived footage of both performances and interviews that adds to the narrative being told.
Oscar Nominated actress Ruth Negga voices Poly Styrene in the visual diaries and voice interviews are heard from many of knew her, loved her and were inspired by her, including her sister Margaret Emmons and singer, Neneh Cherry and punk fashion designer, Vivienne Westwood – both of whom I adore – it’s a great day when you find out who your idols were inspired by.
Poly Styrene didn’t see herself as a rebel, but she was and many saw her as one – she also refused to be sexualised sang and spoke about issues that we are dealing with today like plastic waste, damage to the planet and more, but I don’t think the world took it seriously back in the late 70’s.
She was truly a woman ahead of her time – no wonder she was searching for an identity as a mixed-race woman living in a black and white world – in the end she created her own identity of many colours and made a real mark in the world.
Marianne Joan Elliot -Said – I SALUTE YOU!
Definitely watch this film if you are inspired by great women and can identify with the human need of finding your place in the world.
Also – Sky Arts – Sat 6th March 2021- 9pm.
Enjoy and thanks for reading.