Indigo Girls: It’s Only Life After All (Oscilloscope Laboratories, NR)

Photo of the Indigo Girls by Jeremy Coward

The Indigo Girls documented most of their forty years of playing music together in nearly every recording format you could imagine. The footage of the Girls goes back to their childhoods, throughout four decades of playing together, to current times, with rarely shared details about their private lives. Having such a deluge of information in the space of one film wasn’t as overwhelming as you’d think. In fact, you started to tie together themes throughout their careers. Always music. Always courage. Always standing up for the little folks. Alexandria Bombach’s new documentary about Amy Ray and Emily Saliers gives us a deeply personal view of both women and their work together.

The work isn’t just the music and the impressions that are made with it. They’ve been activists for their entire career, with causes from Save the Whales, to Queer Rights, Indigenous Rights, Pro-Choice, and anti-Death Penalty. Their audiences have been asked to participate in politics, to vote, to get involved. They ask us to pay attention with their lyrics, their music, and the way they live their lives.

The organization Honor the Earth showcases their work with Indigenous communities, holding up those communities while the Indigo Girls help in the background. It’s never seemed performative, their grassroots investments, because it’s been so consistent a pairing in their career. Where there are worthy causes, there are the Indigo Girls, it seems.

These women couldn’t be more different from each other, but they have some characteristics in common. Courage – to come out in the early ’90s. Empathy – to see the endangered communities around them. They write from the heart, and that resonates through all of their music. They’ve been called “earnest” as an insult, but it’s that earnestness and honesty that pull their fans in.

The most touching part of the documentary was when fans of the group sat interview-style to talk about the impact the folk-rock duo have had on their lives.

“They saved my life,” heard more than once. They were there for me, they wrote songs just for me. They helped me get through this divorce, that transition, those dark years. The Indigo Girls’ music seems to find its audience when they need it the most.

As a lifelong fan of their music, it was like sitting down and chatting with my musical heroes for a few hours. While in the very full Hi-Pointe Theatre back in April for a one-night screening as part of the film’s nationwide theatrical engagement, a group of folks came together to get to know the Indigo Girls a little better. The whole theater sang along during the musical interludes, just as we would at a concert.

Their music makes it seem like they know us already, and it’s always seemed kind of uneven. After this beautifully produced documentary, it’s a little more even. | Melissa Cynova

Indigo Girls: It’s Only Life After All is available for streaming on video on-demand services starting May 7th.

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