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Punk rock and heavy metal culture come together for documentary

The Decline of Western Civilization trilogy series. Credit: Courtesy of Penelope Spheeris.

The Decline of Western Civilization trilogy series. Credit: Courtesy of Penelope Spheeris.

Three decades of punk rock and metal culture come together in “The Decline of Western Civilization,” a documentary trilogy that the Wexner Center for the Arts will bring to The Ohio State University’s campus.

The three films each span three decades of music feature the punk rock and metal culture from the late 80s to the 90s. Starting Friday through Sunday at 7 p. m., the Wexner will be show all three films, with the director, Penelope Spheeris, speaking after each one about the makings of the films and their concepts.

Spheeris said that there are three movies in the series, adding that the first was in 1980, the second in 1987 and the third in 1997. She said the first and third films involve the punk rock culture while the second film is involves the heavy metal culture.

“My daughter and I recently put the box sets out, and that’s why there are all these screenings and people writing about it,Spheeris said.

The box set came out June 30 and is available now.

“It’s a big weight off my shoulders; my darling daughter made me do it and now I feel so much better,she said.

Anna Fox, Spheeris’ daughter, was in charge of restoring and remastering the trilogy, adding in never-before-seen content to the set.

“It was a lot of work,” she said. “There was three decades of format that we had to get through. They didn’t even make players for a lot of them anymore. For instance, I had to listen to some ADAT tapes and an ADAT player was impossible to find. I ended up having to borrow one from Matt Sorum from Guns N’ Roses.”

Fox said she will attend the screening of The Decline” and will talk about the film alongside Spheeris.

“We’re both going to fly there,” Spheeris said. “What we’ve been doing is flying around the country for every weekend since July. We’re going to D.C. this weekend for IFC screenings. The audiences have been amazing, there’s really a lot of film fans and music fans that come out. Every theater we play, we fill up, so that’s kinda cool.

In between screenings, they sell posters for the trilogy for $10 each and give all the proceeds to local homeless shelters and charities.

Her charitable nature speaks to the third movie being about homeless kids — or gutter punks,as Spheeris refers to them — who are thrown out by their families and forced to live on the streets.

“It’s a pretty sad situation. So, not only are the films about music, but also about the youth of that particular decade,” Spheeris said.

For this year, the screening tour will wind down toward the holidays and will kick back up again next year.

“The audience just keeps coming, and people just love watching these movies because these movies were made in a time where there wasn’t a lot of filming and this whole period of time was thoroughly documented,Spheeris said.

Spheeris said it still surprises her that a lot audiences come and see the “Decline” documentaries. Even thirty years later, fans still rush to theaters to see the films.

“It totally shocks me,” she said. “These documentaries are the ones I really love. It just feels more meaningful.”

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