Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché
Paul Sng and Celeste Bell’s documentary looks back over the life and career of an artist who fought misogyny and racism to become the first woman of colour to successfully front a UK rock band.
Although it confronts the prejudice she faced, this tale of Marion Elliot’s transformation into Poly Styrene is ultimately a celebration of her tenacity and talent, detailing how she introduced the world to a new sound of rebellion, using her unconventional voice to sing about identity, consumerism, postmodernism and everything she saw unfolding in late 1970s Britain. As the frontwoman of X-Ray Spex, the Anglo-Somali punk musician was also a key inspiration for the riot grrrl and Afropunk movements.
Beyond the clamour of its account of the music industry, ‘Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliche’ also provides an intimate portrait of its subject. The film was written and co-directed by the singer’s daughter Celeste Bell and features excerpts from diary entries, read by Oscar-nominated actor Ruth Negga. There’s also a rich trove of archive footage, which adds further texture and detail to this compelling portrait of a singular artist.
★★★★ “Riveting and valuable documentary” - Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian