Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché
Directed by Celeste Bell, Paul Sng
Poly Styrene was the first woman of color in the UK to front a successful rock band. 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, with a rare prescience. As the frontwoman of X-Ray Spex, the Anglo-Somali punk musician was also a key inspiration for the riot grrrl and Afropunk movements. But the late punk maverick didn’t just leave behind an immense cultural footprint. Poly was survived by a daughter, Celeste Bell.
Celeste became the unwitting guardian of her mother’s legacy and her mother’s demons. Misogyny, racism, and mental illness plagued Poly’s life, while their lasting trauma scarred Celeste’s childhood and the pair’s relationship. Featuring unseen archive material and rare diary entries narrated by Oscar-nominee Ruth Negga, this documentary follows Celeste as she examines her mother’s unopened artistic archive and traverses three continents to better understand Poly the icon and Poly the mother.
Director: Celeste Bell, Paul Sng
Running Time: 96 minutes
Release Year: 2022
“More than a journeyman rockumentary, Poly Styrene is a thoughtfully finessed filial reckoning: a daughter’s journey toward understanding her mother as a young artist and as a young woman of color.” – Lisa Kennedy, New York Times