Early on in the documentary Girl, a DJ named Colette says that DJing-while-female is mainly about â€śears and hands. Itâ€™s not different depending on your gender.â€ť Director Kandeyce Jorden would have you believe otherwise, and she presents her findings in an documentary filmed in the years immediately preceding the current EDM explosion.
Forbes released its â€śElectronic Cash Kings of 2013â€ť list in Augustâ€”and â€śkingsâ€ť is exactly right, because the 12 top-earning DJs are all male. As anyone who follows Diplo on Instagram can tell you, the Internetâ€™s ever-growing twerk team population is all ass and no face, and sometimes this feels like the most visible representation of women in the electronic music scene. Female DJs arenâ€™t exactly as rare as the unicorn these days and first-world women arenâ€™t barred from purchasing mixers or Serato software, a fact which inevitably leads one to wonder why there arenâ€™t more superstar female DJs. Only a buffoon would claim thereâ€™s some native difference in technical ability (buffoons like Girl subject DJ Meaâ€™s ex-boyfriend, who told her she â€śwould never understand dance musicâ€ť before she started spinning). According to interviews in the film, one intangible-yet-significant obstacle seems to be overcoming prejudice and â€śyouâ€™re pretty good for a girlâ€ť-style skepticism.
The "girl" in the title is actually several: in the filmâ€™s first act, it follows female DJs in a broad sense. Later, it follows trance DJ Sandra Collins as we follow her around the globe for three years, and ultimately it catalogues the journey of Jorden herself, who is arguably the filmâ€™s true subject. According to Jordenâ€™s voice-over, her project was sparked by a burgeoning identity crisis as a new mother with a husband whose own directing career was heating up. As a novice documentary filmmaker and relative outsider to the DJ world, Jorden isn't afraid to let the viewer know that she isnâ€™t yet sure what the filmâ€™s thesis is going to be. Her exploratory tone is a bold choice, resulting in a meandering pace that demands a bit of patience on the viewer's part.
Girl is at its most compelling when Jorden ditches the narration and lets her subjects share their experiences of being a female DJ. Drum n bass vet DJ Rap says that when she first started it was hard to â€śbe taken seriously, for people not to think I was around there just to f-ck themâ€ť but that perseverance and talent always lead to respect. The fact that a womanâ€™s appearance is implicitly tied to her perceived value is also addressed: One female DJ says of Collins and DJ Rap, â€śtheyâ€™ve built their reputation up to a certain point, but theyâ€™re also beautiful women who can sell a magazineâ€ť before admitting sheâ€™s never seen either woman DJ live. Collins herself says she never thought of her gender as a factor when she started DJing, but found her behavior and clothing choices under a microscope as her fame grew, something she suspects her male counterparts donâ€™t encounter.
The dual subjects of the filmâ€”Jorden and the female DJs she interviewsâ€”jostle for the lead at times. The filmmakerâ€™s attempts to draw a parallel between herself as a working mother and these DJs feel incongruous because these women are intoxicated by their craft and possess a love for nightlife and their self-described â€śPeter Pan lifestyleâ€ť that Jorden simply doesnâ€™t share. Yet despite its flaws, Girl is worth checking out, particularly if youâ€™re a fan of Sandra Collins, DJ Irene, and the other artists profiled. The documentary sheds light on an under-explored subject and considers the motivations and sacrifices required to pursue creative work, whether itâ€™s making music, directing a film, or raising a child.
If youâ€™re in the Los Angeles area, donâ€™t miss the premiere of â€śGirlâ€ť at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood on September 19 at 7:30pm!
--By Samantha Vincenty. Follow her on Twitter here
Image via Girl