Best Of 2021: Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché

Dir: Paul Sng & Celeste Bell
United Kingdom / 2021 / 89mins

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Counter-cultural icon and punk pioneer Poly Styrene introduced the world to a new sound of rebellion as the energetic founder and frontwoman of X-Ray Spex.

Poly used her unconventional voice to sing about identity, consumerism and postmodernism in late 1970s Britain, becoming a key inspiration for the riot grrrl and Afropunk movements that came after.

But the late punk maverick didn’t just leave behind an immense cultural footprint. She was survived by a daughter, Celeste Bell, who 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.