UNDERGROUND USA: INDIE CINEMA OF THE 80s - Suburbia (w/ Penelope Spheeris in person!)

Co-presented by The Director List
Live Set from DJ Totally Abuse

Filmed primarily in the abandoned housing tracts that would soon become Interstate 105, writer/director Penelope Spheeris’s Suburbia deeply embeds us among a group of disillusioned young runaways fed up with the pains inflicted by the typical cul-de-sac lifestyle. Roaming Los Angeles’s southeastern Gateway Cities in search of the family never found in their own flesh and blood is a pitch-perfect cast made up of authentic street kids and musicians, most of whom had never passed before the lens of a real camera—including a future Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist cleverly credited as “Mike B. The Flea.” This narrative follow-up to her seminal punk rock doc The Decline of Western Civilization (1981) is possessed with moments that pass for pure vérité, with uncut, voltaic performances from Southland punk stalwarts T.S.O.L., The Vandals and D.I. paired with the electricity (and danger) of some bona fide mosh pits. Up from the depths of the dingy venues now long-forgotten to a total strip mall takeover and the graffiti-laden “crash houses” these street kids call home emerges a singular depiction of a uniquely So Cal subculture. What could find easy comparisons in earlier teenage rebellion films like Over the Edge (1979) and Rumble Fish (1983) instead opts to eschew judgement for a compassionate—if at times too-real—look at a Spheeris’s special brand of (anti)hero.

Dir. Penelope Spheeris, 1983, 35mm, 94 min.