Hot Docs 2012: She Said Boom: The Story of Fifth Column

Fuck, we're shit at celebrating our musical history in Toronto. We've had a kickass rock scene in this city for decades, since long before Broken Social Scene supposedly put us on the map. And She Said Boom remembers that, telling the story of one of the most influential bands ever to come out of T.O.: Fifth Column.

The all-female band was formed in the '80s, in the wake of punk, back in the days when Toronto was — as bassist Beverly Breckenridge puts it in the film — "a really tough town". And Fifth Column's aesthetic reflected that: raw, clanging guitars, helter skelter drums, songs about stuff like the true story of gay men being arrested and publicly humiliated for having sex in a bathroom at a mall in St. Catherines. Not to mention they were armed with their own male go-go dancer, a young experimental filmmaker by the name of Bruce LaBruce. And their influence extended beyond music, too: shooting Andy Warhol-ish films and projecting them Exploding Plastic Inevitable-style at their shows; working on cut-and-paste zines full of naked punk rockers from their cockroach-infested apartment on Queen East.

She Said Boom shows it all, with grainy footage of the city from the '80s, interviews with band members and friends, and a predictably awesome soundtrack. But maybe most excitingly, it shows the influence those songs and zines had on an entire generation of female and queer musicians, pretty much crediting them with launching both the Riot Grrrl and Queercore movements. While Fifth Column were finding success —getting songs released on the influential Kill Rock Stars label and having their single "All Women Are Bitches" (though it was banned by the fools at Much Music) glowingly praised by Melody Maker and NME — bands like Bikini Kill were inspired to pick up their own instruments. 

The most touching signs of their influence, though, came in the Q&A session after the screening. The director of the short film showing with She Said Boom (The Man Who Got Away), told his story of growing up in Alberta, reading those zines, longing to move to Toronto. And a women in the audience, who'd recently moved here from Ireland, got up to thank them, explaining that she'd moved here because it was a safer place to be gay. This, she said, was the first time she'd seen that culture celebrated on the big screen. She was in tears.

So in the end, She Said Boom is more than just a reminder of Toronto's long rock history, but of the fact that it's bands like this, people like this, communities like this, that make our city such a great fucking place to live.

- Adam Bunch

She Said Boom had its world premiere on Friday night, but has two more screenings coming up at the festival: Tuesday May 1 at 9pm at the Cumberland and Friday May 4 at 7pm at the Fox Theatre. For tickets 'n' stuff go here.

Find all of our coverage of Hot Docs 2012 here.

Adam Bunch is the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at


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