Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliche
Director Celeste Bell, Paul Sng
UK / 89 min. / 2021/ English
Poly Styrene was the first woman of colour in the UK to front a successful rock band.
She introduced the world to a new sound of rebellion, using her unconventional voice to sing about identity, consumerism, postmodernism, and everything she saw unfolding in late 1970s Britain, with a rare prescience. As the frontwoman of X-Ray Spex, the Anglo-Somali punk musician was also a key inspiration for the riot grrrl and Afropunk movements.
But the late punk maverick didn’t just leave behind an immense cultural footprint. She was survived by a daughter, Celeste Bell, who became the unwitting guardian of her mother’s legacy and her mother’s demons. Misogyny, racism, and mental illness plagued Poly’s life, while their lasting trauma scarred Celeste’s childhood and the pair’s relationship.
Featuring unseen archive material and rare diary entries narrated by Oscar-nominee Ruth Negga, this documentary follows Celeste as she examines her mother’s unopened artistic archive and traverses three continents to better understand Poly the icon and Poly the mother.
Leonor Faber-Jonker (1987) is an author and artist. She has published extensively on colonial history and art & culture in the punk and postpunk years. In her work, she uses fiction and non-fiction, collage, and photography to explore themes related to memory and the lives of (colonial) objects. For her recent podcast Radio Pareidolia (for Radio WORM) she took her collection of (post)punk records as a point of departure to explore the relations between music, memory, and history writing.
Sunday 20th June, 21:15h
Introduction by Leonor Faber-Jonker: Q&A with Celeste Bell (Director) and Zoë Howe (Screenwriter)
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