Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché

is creating A documentary film about punk icon Poly Styrene

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The daughter of punk pioneer and X-Ray Spex singer/songwriter Poly Styrene journeys across three continents to explore the artistic and cultural legacy of her late mother.

This biographical documentary chronicles the remarkable life of Anglo-Somali artist and punk maverick Poly Styrene, the first black woman in the UK to lead a successful rock band (X-Ray Spex). Poly’s life was fraught with difficulties: poverty, racism, misogyny, and chronic mental health issues. After suffering a nervous breakdown at the height of her success, she left music to join the Hare Krishna cult.

The film follows Poly’s daughter Celeste Bell as she examines her mother's unopened artistic archive and uncovers the legacy of a woman whose lyrics were described by radical musician Billy Bragg as, “a slap in the face” to male artists and journalists. Despite the brevity of her career, Poly’s influence has reverberated throughout music, fashion, and feminism, from the Riot Grrrls of the 1990s to the global Afropunk movement of today.

We have shot a large part of the film and recorded more than 30 audio interviews with people including Neneh Cherry, Pauline Black, Kathleen Hanna, Lora Logic, Paul Dean, Vivienne Westwood, Thurston Moore, Glen Matlock and many others. In addition, by recording the narration of Poly’s diary entries with the brilliant Oscar-nominated actor Ruth Negga, we have brought Poly’s inner thoughts from her early years to life.

We are now raising funds to finish the film and to pay for the additional elements required, including artwork, design, animation, original archive footage, graphics, additional editing and post-production and music licensing. The costs involved in making a feature-length documentary of this scale and quality are significant; raising the remaining funds through traditional routes has proved challenging.

In recent months, award-winning producer Rebecca Mark-Lawson has joined the team and we are working with talented editor Xanna Ward Dixon to weave together the personal, social and political themes of the time that affected Poly and her music, in a complex and compelling rough cut of the film. We have brought onboard a US Co-Producer, Matthew Silverman, who is heading up our audience development strategy in the U.S. We have also been working with animation artists to develop the artwork to enhance the film’s aesthetic and bring the feel and tone of this amazing punk era to life on screen in all its frenetic glory.

For this reason we are launching a Patreon campaign for the next year, which you can contribute to from as little as $3 a month in return for various rewards, such as access to exclusive unseen content from the film and invitations to special events. These regular contributions will go a long way to help us to fund the last elements necessary to release the film to international audiences in its best form.

We have been overwhelmed with the positive reaction to our film and to Poly Styrene herself. We know how much Poly means to so many people, how many lives were touched and inspired by her work, and we hope her story will go on to inspire many more and that our film will contribute to the legacy of this incredible woman.

Paul Sng and Celeste Bell - Directors

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