During the 1980s heyday of punk, kids with guitars they barely knew how to play fought back, in their way, against ossified corporate music structures and suburban cultural wastelands. They were creating their own culture in environments that were apathetic to them at best, and hostile at worst. Turn it Around: The Story of East Bay Punk focuses a nostalgic eye on the scene that birthed mega-sellers Green Day (who executive produced the film), as well as luminaries like Rancid and Jawbreaker. Director Corbett Redford, a musician and high school friend of Green Day, has no experience with documentary or feature-length filmmaking, and that amateurism –— or is it the ol' DIY spirit? -- pervades. The film exhibits no interest in sorting the significant out of the minutiae — dozens of bands are briefly profiled with no distinction between the terrible and the talented.
Over 100 people are interviewed in bland talking head style over the bloated
2 ½-hour runtime, many for less than a minute. Most spout platitudes about the importance of the punk scene, but there are only so many ways to say a band is awesome. Surprisingly, almost no connection is made between the scene's battles with skinhead interlopers and the current alt-right assault on Berkeley. The best films, documentary or narrative, are windows into the inner lives of people, not endless catalogues of obscure bands. Corbett has created a work of ethnography that seems designed only to appeal to the musicians and fans being interviewed on screen. It's a poor work of documentary, and not at all punk.