Saturday, 6 August 2011

Film Review: The Gits

Chances are you haven't heard of The Gits.  But if things had gone according to plan, you probably would have. The Gits were a band on the Seattle scene in the early '90s, on the cusp of "Big Things".  They'd played with Nirvana, just toured Europe and had a deal on the table from Atlantic.

You can see how things should have progressed.  But on a summer night in 1993 everything was blown apart when the singer with the gloriously strong voice, Mia Zapata, was beaten, raped and murdered walking home from a night out with friends.

The Gits (2005) is a documentary which follows the roots of the band, from their birth in 1986 at Antioch College, through their early years in Seattle to Mia's murder and the subsequent demise of the band.  Filmed 12 years after her murder, the Police still haven't arrested anyone and it looks like they never will.

It's quite a hard film to watch; there's so much footage of Mia, plus load of photos.  You really get a sense of a community based around music, and friends hanging out together, supporting each other.  One particular clip shows a house party where The Gits performed a few songs (bet the neighbours loved that).  Mia's singing 'The Drinking Song' with the lyrics 'Here's to them - to all of my friends'.  Interviews with the other members of The Gits and other bands and people on the scene still show a raw pain and anger over a decade on.

But what's so strange about this documentary is that it doesn't end how you expect.  Part way through filming DNA evidence caught the killer.  The killer's saliva had been held since the case, when DNA techniques were less advanced.  12 years later, things had progressed and a full DNA profile could be taken.  And a match was found...

Jesus Mezquia was a Cuban national now living in Florida.  He'd been in Seattle in 1993 and had a previous history of violence against women.  He was found guilty after an eight day trial.  It's quite odd seeing the courtroom verdict - obviously here in the UK cameras aren't allowed inside.  Mia's friends and family are there, crying and hugging each other as he's cuffed and sent down.  He didn't know Mia - Detective Gagnon who headed the investigation believes he was a predator out looking for a victim.  Mia was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Actually scrap that - there's no reason why any woman shouldn't be able to walk home alone at night in safety.

The Gits is powerful stuff.

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