director Kerri O’Kane
Back in 1992, I saw The Gits at a club called Brave New World on Fulton Street in San Francisco. In those days, I was still relatively plugged in to the local punk scene and had a lot of friends who knew the shows to go see and I’d still go and see them. I don’t know that I’d really heard of them that much before going to see them but I knew they were from Seattle and were supposed to be pretty good. And they most certainly were good. Most notable was singer Mia Zapata, whose vocals stood out and her dreadlocked, tres casual looks gave her the feel of a kind of person that I knew in the punk scenes. It was a club with a very low stage if any.
Almost as notable at the time was that actor Mike Myers was there at the show. He was in town filming his first feature film, So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993) and he was hanging out in the places that regular people hung out in. I don’t know what he thought, but I think my girlfriend bought the band’s CD (it was that transitional time between buying vinyl and CD’s, so I’m not sure).
A year later, I was in Portland, OR on a road trip and had picked up the local weekly paper to see what shows were on at the time and I discovered the shocking news that Zapata had been murdered in Seattle, raped and strangled on a city street. The news was shocking, sad, befuddling. Terrible.
A decade later, Zapata’s murder was finally solved via DNA evidence. She had been murdered by a random killer, who eventually was brought to justice. The story was even featured on a number of programs like Forensic Files, which is how I finally heard of the resolution. A random disconnect from an old life in the punk scene to a current life of watching a lot of true crime detective non-fiction programming.
Director Kerri O’Kane’s documentary The Gits spans that whole story of the band’s formation at Antioch College in Ohio, their move to Seattle, their relationship with Seven Year Bitch and other local bands, their rise on the surge of the Grunge scene which they weren’t really a part of, to Zapata’s tragic, random, horrible death.
The latter part of the film ends up focusing on her death and final capture of her killer. The voices interviewed are mostly members of the band, some friends, members of Seven Year Bitch, and even Joan Jett, who filled in with The Gits who tried to raise money to find Zapata’s murderer.
They were a very good band. She was a singular talent. And from all evidence, a very kind, fine human being who very positively effected the lives of all around her.
The film isn’t overly exceptional, though it definitely does an admirable job covering the story, featuring the music. In these oral histories, it’s the survivors who tell the tales. Mia is missing even in this picture. She’s only shown speaking on stage or singing, never interviewed (in archival footage). It makes sense. The film was made long after her passing. And it’s a sad look back on what was with hints of what might have been.