Spain Rodriguez in front of a community heroes mural by Marshall Potter.

Title: ‘Bad Attitude: The Art of Spain Rodriguez’

Director: Susan Stern

The social commentary that’s driving the conflicts and changes in modern society is largely rooted in history, which once again proves that humanity often doesn’t learn from its past mistakes. The new documentary, ‘Bad Attitude: The Art of Spain Rodriguez,’ is offering a stunning exploration into the edgy underground comic books that explore social injustices and were created by the title illustrator throughout his career, which spanned from the 1960s to his death in 2012.

Rodriguez’s widow, Emmy-nominated filmamker, Susan Stern, wrote, directed and produced the touching tribute to her late husband. The movie, which grippingly chronicles how the fight for equality has largely remained the same since the artist was born, is having its World Premiere in the Breakouts section at this month’s Slamdance Film Festival.

‘Bad Attitude’ delves into the controversial art and life of the legendary eponymous underground cartoonist through Stern’s perspective. From the propaganda comics of World War II, to the underground comics’ breakthrough in the 1960s in New York and San Francisco, to the graphic novels of today, the documentary offers an insight into the history of comics, and emphasizes the importance of art in activism. Featuring a roster of Rodriguez’s friends, family and fellow comics luminaries, including R. Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Trina Robbins, Aline Kominsky-Crumb and Ed Piskor, and his daughter, New York-based artist, Nora Rodriguez, the movie offers a deep exploration into his professional and personal lives.

The film’s visually captivating cinematography and editing perfectly exude its emotionally enthralling, thought-provoking narrative. Rodriguez’s determination to share his generation’s ideas about, and experiences with, race, politics and masculinity while he was growing up in the 1940s and ’50s, including spending time with a white, working-class biker gang, his opposition to police brutality and his struggle to understand feminism, is powerfully highlighted throughout the story.

While not all of the artist’s friends, relatives and colleagues agreed with his beliefs and views, ‘Bad Attitude’ still successfully showcases their respect for his work through their nostalgic interviews. Their recollections of how he created his comics and their long-lasting impact on underground culture in modern society infuses the documentary with a balanced sense of objectivity.

With the riveting, in-depth exploration into such a provocative artist like Rodriguez, ‘Bad Attitude’ is a true stand-out dedication to not only the title illustrator, but also all artist-activists who continue to support social change in all times of political uprising. Stern achieved her goal of creating a place for conversation about the need to continuously maintain social justice, which can be achieved in part through art. The equally timely and timeless movie is a must-see for anyone attending this year’s virtual edition of the Slamdance Film Festival, as it proves that equality amongst all people is one of the most important elements in maintaining civilized order in any society.

Technical: A-

Story: B+

Overall: B+

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By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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