Punk the Capital – The Story Of Punk in Washington DC 1976-1983

When punk rock erupted in Washington DC, it was a mighty convergence of powerful music, friendships, and clear minds. This film is the first to explore the incredible challenges that this subculture faced when it took root in the Nation’s Capital in the late 1970’s.

‘Punk the Capital’ situates DC punk within the larger narratives of rock n’ roll, working as a powerful multi-layered story for both fans and non-fans of punk rock. Featuring musicians such as Bad Brains, Henry Rollins, Ian MacKaye, and Jello Biafra, this film dives deep into the ideas and sounds from this transformative music scene which continues to be influential culturally and politically around the world.

Created by James June Schneider (Co-Director, Editor), Paul Bishow (Co-Director), and Sam Lavine (Associate Producer, Co-Editor), ‘Punk the Capital’ has been on the road since its World Premiere weekend in Washington D.C. held simultaneously at the American Film Institute and the Hirshhorn Museum (Sound Scene festival). The filmmakers took the film around the USA and Europe to festivals, cinematheques, cinemas, galleries and community spaces. It has been selected for festivals including In-Edit (Barcelona and Brazil) BAFICI, Leeds International Film Festival, and Sound Unseen.  Watch the trailer via YouTube below.

Each screening has been an event, with at least one of the filmmakers present and for the majority of dates, there has been a special guest (Henry Rollins, Ian MacKaye, Cynthia Connolly, HR of Bad Brains and many others.) The goal of the team was to reach 100 consecutive in-person events. They made it to 50 before the pandemic began.

Schneider states:
We were touring the film like a band would until the pandemic hit. Now as things open back up, we’re glad to kick off the theatrical release for a variety of reasons. Some of the cinemas where Punk the Capital will be showing, I screened my films back in 1997 when filmmaker Martha Colburn and I hit the road together. I’ve been thinking about them as we piece this together. Before we release the film on DVD/Blu-ray we wanted to undertake a big push with a theatrical release, part virtual, part in person, that I hope will do its part in getting some of these struggling indie cinemas some much-needed support. And we also are looking forward to sharing the film in these times since it’s an optimistic film essentially about building something new and constructive despite the odds.

The final version of our film that we’re releasing now is just the intense tip of the iceberg – our first cut was 7 hours long. In the end, we wound up focusing on the untold and improbable story of punk rock’s beginnings in Washington DC, that happened concurrently with cities across the western world. We took a lot of our extra material that otherwise might never have been seen and edited it together to make short films that will be in the bonus section on the DVD (and Blu-ray). One of the shorts focuses on the band Scream and their family connections to DC’s 1960’s legendary garage band scene. 

As we roll the film out, we’ve been blown away by the positive response not just from fans of punk and DC punk who see and hear a lot of unseen material. We’ve also heard from a lot of people even up to 90 years old who don’t really like punk but who nonetheless love the film. We’re glad to see that Punk the Capital works on a lot of levels and are hoping that it will reach a broad audience since the DIY ideas highlighted in the film about the DC punk scene go well beyond the music.”

DVD / Blu-ray to be released for National Record Store Day on June 8th via Passion River

Punk The Capital poster
Theatre + virtual screenings

5/13 – OPENING NIGHT – Cinelounge Drive-In Hollywood – Los Angeles, CA
w/ Pete Stahl (Scream) Q&A co-presented with curator/publisher Roger Gastman 
Short film about Scream and their connection with the 1960’s garage band The Hangmen created by Punk the Capital will play ahead of the screening
5/14 – Cinelounge Hollywood – Los Angeles, CA
w/ Hudley Flipside (of Flipside fanzine fame) presentation and Q&A
5/14 – New Plaza Screening Series (former Lincoln Plaza Cinema) – New York, NY
5/14 – Acme Theater – Lambertville, PA 
5/14 – Texas Theater – Dallas, TX 
5/14 – Brattle Theater – Cambridge, MA 
5/14 – International Film Series – Boulder, CO 
5/14 – Hollywood Theater – Portland, OR
5/14 – The Guild Cinema – Albuquerque, NM 
5/14 – Countryfest Community Cinema – Dauphin, MB
5/14 – Screenland Armour Theater – Kansas City, MO
5/14 – 6/25 – Rosendale Theater – Rosendale, NY
5/14 – 6/25 – The Colonial Performing Arts Center – Keene, NH
5/14 – Amherst Cinema – Amherst, MA
5/14 – Metro Cinema – Edmonton, AB
5/23 – The Roxie Cinema – San Francisco, CA 
w/ Q&A with Chris Stover (Void), Nicky Thomas (Fire Party), Lydia Ely (early DC scene)
5/14 – Screenland Armour Theater – Kansas City, MO
5/14 – Gateway – Columbus, OH 
5/14 – The Music Box – Chicago, IL
5/14 – Suns Cinema – Washington, DC 
5/14 – Tahoe Art Haus & Cinema – Tahoe City, CA 
5/14 – Scarecrow Video Virtual Screenings – Seattle, WA
5/14 – Time & Space Museum – Hudson, NY
5/14 – Sunray Cinema – Jacksonville, FL
5/14 – Zeitgeist Theater – New Orleans, LA
5/14 – The Miracle Theatre – Washington, DC
5/21 – Parkway Theater – Pittsburgh, PA
5/14 – 6/3 – Olympia Film Society at The Capitol Theater – Olympia, WA
5/14 – Cinemapolis – Ithaca, NY
5/14 – The Nightlight Cinema – Akron, OH 
TBD – Bel Aire Drive-In – Brooklyn, NY
TBD – Winnipeg Cinematheque – Winnipeg, MB 

For more information on ‘Punk The Capital,’ visit www.punkthecapital.info.

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