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Sundance 2020, The Go-Go\'s
Sundance 2020, The Go-Go\'s
Erin Sleater
Culture > Entertainment

Sundance in Review: The Go-Go’s

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Utah chapter.

Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin, Charlotte Caffey, Gina Schock, and Kathy Valentine are the Go-Go’s: the first, and to this day the only, female band to play their own instruments, write their own songs, and claim the #1 spot on the Billboard charts. 

Allison Ellwood’s Showtime bio-documentary The Go-Go’s focuses on the roots of the revolutionary group and their journey to stardom. Ellwood is known for her outstanding work in documentary film, as The Go-Go’s is following History of the Eagles while premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. The film includes concert footage, photos, and a multitude of interviews, coming together to form the perfect portrait of badass women and what sisterhood represents. 


Based out of the Los Angeles Punk scene, the original Go-Go’s lineup included Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin, Elissa Bello, and Margot Olavarria. What they lacked in skill, they had in determination and dedication. The ground-breaking girl band was self-made, not a carefully constructed plan put together by male-executives (there are a few jabs taken at The Runaways throughout). Infiltrating the Punk DIY scene and having no idea what they were doing, Punk offered the girls freedom and the opportunity to be completely and unapologetically raw. 

Soon, the late 70s punk turned into 80s hits, members were kicked out and added, long time agent Ginger Canzoneri was fired, and the band began to truly evolve. The film highlights special moments in the band’s history such as becoming the house band at the Whisky a Go Go, touring with The Specials and Madness (and in turn attracting a threatening crowd of white-nationalist skinheads), Caffey writing  “We Got the Beat” in five minutes while watching an episode of The Twilight Zone, Kathy Valentine learning all the bass parts to the songs during a three-day coke binge with no prior bass experience, filming “Our Lips are Sealed” entirely with the left-over money from The Police’s music video budget, as well as the infamous wasted performance on Saturday Night Live.

With the feel-good nostalgia, the film also doesn’t shy away from the bad: tackling Caffey’s heroin addiction, feuds over income distribution (real money is in songwriting), music-industry sexism, inevitable drama,  and everything in between. But still, The film ends on an uplifting note, with the band back together, writing a new song after almost two decades following their work on their Broadway Musical, thus displaying the quintet’s bond based within empowering one other always brings them back together. 


The film makes a point to remind the audience that despite The Go-Go’s are the only all-female band who wrote and played their own material have a #1 album, the iconic band has yet to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Erin is a senior at University of Utah currently pursuing strategic communications major with writing and rhethoric minor. She's passionate about all things creative, and hopes one day to work in the film industry.