An entertaining look at D.C.'s Fugazi

Critic's choice: Film

June 20, 1999|By Ann Hornaday

This weekend, fans of Fugazi no doubt will be beating a path to the Charles Theatre, which is showing "Instrument," Jem Cohen's film about the legendary Washington punk band.

While "Instrument" has obvious appeal for Fugazi aficionados, this two-hour documentary should also prove inspiring to anyone who is fed up with the commodification and commercialization of artistic expression.

Cohen, who went to high school with Fugazi front-man Ian MacKaye, uses Super-8, 16-millimeter and video footage, often not synched up with whatever song is playing, to create a visually poetic and narratively compelling portrait of a band that for more than a decade has pursued a career of rare artistic and political integrity. (They charge only $5 per show; they have never made a music video; they record and distribute their own music; they play only benefits in the D.C. area.) If you know Fugazi, "Instrument" will be an entertaining reminder of why you love them; if you don't know Fugazi, Cohen provides a graceful and absorbing introduction.

"Instrument" is being shown through Wednesday at 10 p.m. Admission is $5.

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