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Rock SchoolRock School

Starring: Paul Green, C. J, Asa and Tucker, Madi, and Will.
Directed by: Don Argott
Produced by Argoot and Sheena M. Joyce

 

 

Bluntly speaking? Rock School is one of those must see documentaries. It's got all the perfect elements; enthralling characters - inclusive of a semi-madman among them - cute kids "playing rock star," and an introduction into a world that inspires you.

The documentary, filmed cinema verite style, follows around Paul Green, owner and creator, of a Philadelphia based place actually called, Rock School (now a chain...). And his musical clubhouse aint your typical three-chord, nine week get-a-way that leads to some pitiful piano recital were the youngin' butcher 'Fur Elise' to the glee of their chest-a-burstin' with pride parental manipulators. No. It's a school of genuine rock and roll. Well, heavy rock - like Metallica, Black Sabbath and Zappa.

Who hasn't dreamed of being a rock star? And these would be guitar slingin' groupie sortin' creators of music are thrown into a world of multi-instrumental haberdashery - and they are kids, between the ages of nine and seventeen.

They start with the "generic" metal rock. Pounding their guitars, keys, bass' and drums while being prodded along with verbal attacks by their overlord Paul Green. When they are good enough,the "elite, " or actually talented are allowed into Zappa classes; here a kind of a musical calculus of the school. Zappa Beta Cappa if you will.

The wonderful part of the film is three-fold. You get to see kids being turned on to something - anything. They are genuinely inspired and learning to be individual beneath the notes of their cover songs. You get to see a resurgence in after school activities that get the more, shall we say, disoriented, non-Brittany Spears homogenized brand snorfing types, find a home. And you see a regular guy, Paul Green, who realized he wasn't going to be a rock star himself, follow his dream in a round about way by creating - perhaps - a few future rockers of merit. And Green's enthusiasm shines through his often-maniacal hand of verbal battery styled teaching. He is part blunt ogre (and not the cute Shrek kind) and part a sincere lionheart of hope, beneath an overtly humorous and brashish façade.

The documentary takes us through a semester and culminates in Germany at a Zappa festival where the uber-players get to jam in front of fanatics of Zappa. And, they blow the audience away. Zappa's own Napoleon Murphy-Brock gets up and plays with the "kids," which for some, may in itself be worth the price of admission to the film.

There's also a discovery in the film - a kid name C.J., who at the time of filming (2003) was nine. He's a mega-talent that spits out Santana like he's channeling Jimi Hendrix. Along with this gifted child are a pair of siblings, Asa and Tucker, that prefer Black Sabbath ditties - they almost want to make you breed they are so cute - almost. Then there's the Quaker chick , Madi, who is shown coming into her own and detaching from her Sheryl Crowness. Another main focus of the film is a kind of Joey Ramone of the school named Will. Though Will's without the drive and care to continue to perhaps head into a neo-punk world, he does however offer much of the funnier segments with his remarkable candor and genuinely abrupt teen-age pseudo-intellectually deep banterbabble.

Rock School is a spirit lifting, extraordinary little film, with just enough cuteness to give you an awe shucks smile, while entertaining you through every mis-note, talent discovery, character introduction and Greenian tyrant first time feature documentarians Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce captured. Enjoy.

Snack recommendation: Strong coffee - to keep up with Paul Green's kinetics.

 

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