In his latest documentary, Godfathers of Hardcore, director Ian Mcfarland chronicles the story of the legendary hardcore band, Agnostic Front. Revealing interviews and archival footage taken from their thirty year career combine to tell the story of how singer Roger Miret and guitarist Vinnie Stigma created their band and the culture that grew from their music.
For those unfamiliar with hardcore music or the hardcore scene, this is an anthropological crash course in the culture that inspired this hybrid musical genre that combines punk rock ethos with hard rock based musical elements. Both Miret and Stigma reminisce about their lives growing up on the Lower East Side of New York in the 1980s, which is a central element to their music. Stories about the violence and relative lawlessness of the streets at that time give insight into both Miret’s songwriting and Stigma’s devil may care attitude towards life.
Suffice to say, Stigma is a unique character in his own right, and commands the screen every second he is on. Scenes of him walking down the streets of his New York neighborhood sharing stories about the band and greeting fans and friends throughout the trip, reveal just how down to earth and genuine he is. Stigma claims he is just a regular guy, and proves it with his unpretentious attitude and personality. He is also the much needed comic relief in this film, as scenes of him acting silly with his bandmates and fans give this film the light hearted balance that it needs in conjunction with Miret’s more serious, introspective role in the film.
While Stigma is the energy source within the band, singer Roger Miret can be described as the brains and soul behind Agnostic Front. The opening scene shows Miret pulling out an old trunk filled with pictures, flyers, and other classic AF memorabilia, to which he browses through fondly. As Miret describes his abusive childhood, its evident that the trauma he suffered at such a young age is what fueled the aggression and power of those early Agnostic Front records. Unflinching in his recollections and examinations of himself as a younger man, Miret has no qualms about ripping open old emotional wounds in order to examine and analyze how those events shaped the 50 year old man that is now speaking to the camera.
Despite being a documentary about the history Agnostic Front, the most intriguing part of the film was the final act, which centers around Roger Miret and his struggles balancing his family life and the responsibilities of touring and operating Agnostic Front. We see Miret attempt to comfort his young children when they cry and beg him to stay before he leaves for a European tour. We also see the toll that being away from his family takes on Miret, evident in his phone calls home from the road. However, the film takes a dark turn as we watch Miret have a heart attack and deal with the ramifications from his corrective surgery. He questions whether he can continue with Agnostic Front, and whether or not his frenetic stage presence would cause his heart to fail again.
Music documentaries are perhaps the most poignant and intimate subjects within the film industry, in that they offer deeper analysis and intimate perspectives of the artists involved. Whether it’s about the creative process or the artist’s mindset that inspires the music, documentaries like this one can help viewers and fans develop an appreciation and respect for bands and artists that they may not be aware of. As for Godfathers of Hardcore, this was an intriguing glimpse into the lives of this band, despite feeling sluggish at times as the tone shifted from historical to introspective. This is the type of honest and direct story that dictates who Agnostic Front are and what they are about.
Verdict – B