What is post-punk? It is a classification given to bands from The Specials to Orange Juice, from The Fall to DEVO. At its base it is a slower, more reggae influenced punk, heavier on bass and less focused on the rejection of a faceless and apolitical “authority”. Heavy stuff. Very theoretical. There have been many books written on the post-punk era, Simon Reynolds’ Rip It Up and Start Again: Post-Punk 1978-1984 being a standout, getting to grips with the intangible and wide-reaching nature of the genre. What is often lacking when discussing the genre however is the stories of these strange characters that made up this particularly experimental brand of pop, just who were these misfits? Enter Sound for The Future, this year’s London Film Festival Experimenta gala, which takes a whole new approach to the genre, creating a film that is at once personal, historical, and sonically abrasive.
Matt Hulse, director of the film, looks into his past to explore his own experience as a member of post-punk band The Hippies. What makes The Hippies special is that they were formed when Matt was just eleven by him and his siblings, with their first gigs performed to their mum’s friends. Throughout the film Matt looks at how best to channel this experience, through film? Theatre? Tap-dance?
Capturing the era with both its stuck-together-fanzine aesthetic to its music featuring Sleaford Mods, XTC, and of course The Hippies, Hulse creates an especially post-punk document of his own experience of the era, creating a film that through community activity and oral history centres the power of young people, their creativity, and their ability to stand up for what is right.
It is no surprise that post-punk arose around the same time as Margaret Thatcher. The genre, though sometimes written off as apolitical, often took aim at her and her policies, that decimated many of the industrial communities that these bands grew up in. Sound for the Future looks at children not simply as blank-canvas-observers to political violence, but victims of it, and participants in the resistance against it. Why shouldn’t The Hippies form a band? And if they do, why can’t they be political? By interacting with young people throughout the film, and involving them in the creative process, Hulse gives the film a wholly fresh feel, carrying the spirit of The Hippies right into the process of filmmaking.
Fun, enjoyable, and insightful, Sound for the Future is a kaleidoscopic look at post-punk, Thatcher’s Britain, and the director’s own personal history. The film is a definitive entry into the canon of post-punk documentaries, not simply for capturing an unexplored moment in the genre’s history, but for managing to encapsulate its very essence while considering how that might be used to better the future. An incredibly ambitious, and community minded film, Sound for the Future explores how impossible it is to separate personal, political, and national histories, and how difficult that can be to reckon with.