Join Our Mailing List
Email:

Bookmark and Share

Artists

Robin Bell

 

Indulge in a book or dvd
Book and movie events
Get the latest news

What others are saying...
For more from Robin


Robin Bell, born and based in Washington DC, is an award-winning videographer, artist, and Founder and Owner of Bell Visuals, a boutique production company focused on supporting social justice groups and environmentally sustainable companies.

Purchasing Links

Positive Force: More Than a Witness: 30 Years of Punk Politics In Action (DVD)
Directed By: Robin Bell
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-60486-242-3
UPC: 760137497592
Published: 11/2014
Format: DVD NTSC
Length: 70 minutes
Size: 7.7 by 5.5
Subjects: Music-Punk, Politics-Activism
$19.95


Punk activist collective Positive Force DC emerged in 1985, rising from the creative, politically-charged ferment of DC punk’s Revolution Summer. Born in a dynamic local scene sparked by Bad Brains, Minor Threat, and Rites of Spring, a handful of young activists also drew inspiration from UK anarcho-punks Crass and the original “Positive Force” band Seven Seconds to become one of the most long-lasting and influential exponents of punk politics.

This feature-length film by Robin Bell skillfully mixes rare archival footage (including electrifying live performances from Fugazi, Bikini Kill, One Last Wish, Nation of Ulysses, Crispus Attucks, Anti-Flag, and more) with new interviews with key PF activists like co-founder Mark Andersen (co-author of Dance of Days) and supporters such as Ian MacKaye, Ted Leo, and Riot Grrrl co-founder Allison Wolfe. Covering a span of 30 years, More Than A Witness documents PF’s Reagan-era origins, the creation of its communal house, FBI harassment, and the rise of a vibrant underground that burst into the mainstream amidst controversy over both the means and the ends of the movement.

Through it all, Positive Force has persisted, remaining deeply rooted in their hometown, reaching out to those in need and building bridges between diverse communities, while regularly bringing punk protest to the front doors of the powers-that-be. Encompassing an ever-evolving cast of characters, the all-volunteer group has helped to nurture several generations of activists. In the best punk fashion, PF has applied creative DIY tactics and radical critiques to issues of homelessness, hunger, racism, corporate globalization, sexism, homophobia, war, gentrification, and animal/earth liberation, while struggling to constructively address conflicting dynamics and visions within the group itself.

Run time: 70 minutes.

The filmmakers' portion of the proceeds from the sale of the DVD will benefit the We Are Family senior outreach network.


Buy the DVD now | Read Reviews

Events

For a calendar of speaking events, please click here

Latest Blog Entries

 

What Others Are Saying...

Mentions & Interviews

Reviews



pfPositive Force: More Than A Witness: A Review
By Bryan
NightFlight
May 18th, 2016

"Positive Force: More Than a Witness, award-winning videographer Robin Bell’s 2014 documentary on “thirty years of punk politics in action” — now streaming on Night Flight Plus — tells the story of the Washington DC-based punk activist collective Positive Force, who emerged during the so-called Reagan-era “Revolution Summer” of 1985.

Bell’s feature-length film features archival footage — including vintage live concert footage of bands like Fugazi, Nation of Ulysses, Bikini Kill, and more — along with interviews from some of punk’s most influential pioneers, like Ian MacKaye (founder and owner of Arlington, VA-based Dischord Records, and the leader of Fugazi) to Penny Rimbaud (of the UK anarcho-punks Crass), along with supporters and followers, many of whom have played Positive Force gigs, people like Jenny Toomey (Simple Machines, Tsunami), Jello Biafra, Dave Grohl, Ted Leo, Riot Grrrl co-founders Allison Wolfe (Bratmobile) and Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill), and others...."

Read more | Buy the DVD now | Back to reviews | Back to top

pfPositive Force: More Than A Witness: A Review
Scanner Zine
November 10th, 2015

"...Bell’s direction has crammed a lot into the film and his mix of live performances (from the likes of FUGAZI, 7 SECONDS, RITES OF SPRING, SCREAM, SOULSIDE, BIKINI KILL, ANTI-FLAG) and interviews with the Collective and more notable names (Ian MacKaye, Jello Biafra, Dave Grohl, Danbert Nobacon, Ted Leo, Jeff Nelson) works incredibly well. Its narrative is concise and focused yet allows for a range of views from those directly involved, and often those views are contradictory from a personal perspective..."

Read more | Buy the DVD now | Back to reviews | Back to top

pfPositive Force: More Than A Witness: A Review
By Lisa Weiss
Razorcake
March 19th, 2015

"This film chronicles the efforts of this group through the shows they put on, the meetings they held in their community house, and the work they tried to do to affect change.It’s one thing to yell, “Fuck the system.” It’s quite another to work to keep people from getting fucked by the system. PF gave the DC scene a character not found in other places. That character, to some—myself included—felt a little puritanical at times. I lived in DC during the part of the time covered in the film, went to a couple of meetings and helped out with a couple of shows, and attended many more. It was a real culture shock when I moved to San Diego and a “benefit” show was to raise money for the drummer’s paternity test. But it was nice to drink alcohol and listen to live punk rock at the same time...This film is great for going beyond the music and showing that there is more to punk rock than the elements of clothing and fast music that became part of its commercialization in the early ‘90s, but, in the end, it comes off as a little too one-sided and self-congratulatory."

Read more | Buy the DVD now | Back to reviews | Back to top

pfPositive Force: More Than A Witness: Starred Review
By Douglas King
Library Journal

March 25th, 2015

This Kickstarter-funded documentary by visual arts professor Bell (Corcoran School of the Arts & Design) traces the history of the Positive Force (PF) radical activist collective's Washington, DC, chapter, shedding light on how the grassroots organization grew to prominence within the 1980s DC punk scene, its aims, its leaders, and why it continues to thrive after three decades. Bell's fast-paced but thorough and well-rounded account combines snippets of grainy live footage of Fugazi and many other bands associated with the PF movement, archival clips of rallies and chapter meetings, and candid, in-depth new interviews with an impressive list of such prominent DC scenesters as outspoken activist Mark Andersen, local music legend Ian MacKaye, and record label manager Jenny Toomey. Worthwhile bonus features include full versions of live performances from the main film and two brief featurettes.

VERDICT This informative and inspiring film about several generations of punks singing about positive social change and working to make it happen should appeal to socially conscious music fans of all ages, especially viewers interested in learning about the mix of punk, politics, and activism in the DC underground music scene.

Buy the DVD now | Back to reviews | Back to top

pfThree Star Review of Positive Force: More Than A Witness
By T. Keogh
Video Librarian

"Back in the mid-1980s, a bunch of young musicians from the punk rock scene in Washington, D.C., decided to channel their frustrations about society and government—typically aired in loud, brash songs and raucous performances—into concerts action on behalf of the disenfranchised and vulnerable in America. Thus was born Positive Force, a social action coalition of regional bands who wanted to make a difference. This interesting documentary tells their story, now 30 years old and still going strong. While its graying founders remain committed to original principles, the organizations’s energy is constantly repoenished by newcomers to the D.C. music scene. The most interesting parts of director Robin Bell’s film look back on the founding of Positive Force in 1985, followed by the extraordinary decision of its loose-knit membership to buy a house and convert it into a headquarters (which still exists)..."

Read more | Buy the DVD now | Back to reviews | Back to top

pfCapital Gifts 2014: The Ultimate D.C. Punk Collection
By Tori Kerr
DCist
December 4th, 2014

Follow that with documentary Positive Force: More Than A Witness, which chronicles the history of the legendary activist coalition. The film explores Positive Force's early days: hosting a “Revolution Summer,” protesting Apartheid; taking on the riot grrrl movement; and through it all, creating real change in practical, inspiring ways. The DIY ethic that runs through punk music’s veins also sustains Positive Force, its founder, Mark Andersen and the film’s director, Robin Bell. All proceeds from the film benefit the We Are Family senior outreach network. When you gift this, your gift benefits not only your loved one, but hundreds of seniors throughout The District.

Read more | Buy the DVD now | Back to reviews | Back to top

pfPositive Force: More Than a Witness: A Review
by Rob Ross
PopDose
December 18th, 2014

VERY interesting and intriguing historic look at the Positive Force organization, which began in Nevada, but has thrived and stayed the course in Washington D.C. from 1985 onward.  Led by D.C. co-founder Mark Andersen, Positive Force ran parallel to the socially conscious punk movement (the majority of bands recorded for Dischord Records), which by 1985 had begun to widen its spectrum and become, itself, more politicized.  The rawness of the punk anger and ethos began to be pointing toward constructivity, rather than negativity and destruction, and found itself moving in a socially, morally and politically upward (and left-leaning) direction.  As seen in the documentary from director Robin Bell, Positive Force acts upon its words with deeds – from delivering groceries to those in need (especially the elderly) to holding benefit concerts to raise money for various causes, to orchestrating protests.

"I'm going to end this with a predictable summary, but I do so with a clear conscience: no one interested in the connections between punk and activism can ignore Positive Force DC, and no one with such an interest can ignore More Than a Witness either. It is an inspiring documentary that should leave anyone wondering what they themselves can contribute to the struggle for social justice. Watch it, if you get the chance – and if you have the extra cash, you might as well pick up the DVD, not just for the excellent extras but also because you'll be supporting We Are Family as this is where some of the proceeds will go."

Read more | Buy the DVD now | Back to reviews | Back to top

pfFugazi Perform at 1991 D.C. Protest in Clip From Positive Force Documentary
Pitchfork
December 9th, 2014

Positive Force: More Than a Witness; 30 Years of Punk Politics in Action is a new documentary about the Washington, DC punk activist group Positive Force. Directed by Robin Bell, the film tells the story of the group's campaigns against homelessness, racism, corporate globalization, sexism, war, and more. It features interviews with prominent artists as well as archival performance footage. Watch a clip from the film of Fugazi playing a 1991 D.C. protest below via Pitchfork.tv.

Read more | Buy the DVD now | Back to reviews | Back to top

pfPenny Rimbaud of Crass Talks about Politics and Philosophy in a New Positive Force Documentary
By Noisey Staff
Noisey Music by Vice

Positive Force: More Than A Witness; 30 Years Of Punk Politics In Action examines the punk collective Positive Force and their influence on the scene through awareness of political, social, and economic issues. Featuring appearances from bands like Fugazi, Bikini Kill, Nation of Ulysses and more, the documentary spans the group's origins and includes performances, details on their tactics, and much much more. In the above clip, Penny Rimbaud of Crass discusses the evolution of the band and how it fit into the Positive Force ethos.

Read more | Buy the DVD now | Back to reviews | Back to top

pf‘They Wanted to be Rock Stars’: Crass Co-Founder Disses Sex Pistols and Clash in Positive Force DC
Dangerous Minds
December 16th, 2014

One of the highlights of Positive Force is the interview with Penny Rimbaud, drummer and co-founder of the UK group Crass. Rimbaud’s band, which existed from 1977-1984, very much influenced the principles of Positive Force. Crass not only put out their own records and were critical of the mainstream, but they were also activists, believing that it wasn’t enough to just sing about social justice, you had to practice what you preached. In the clip, Rimbaud accuses the members of the Clash and the Sex Pistols of not meaning it, man, as he feels their drive to make it as rock stars came before all else.

If you have any interest at all in the history of American punk and/or activism, Positive Force is definitely worth your time.

Read more | Buy the DVD now | Back to reviews | Back to top

pfPositive Force: More Than a Witness: A Review
By Gabriel Kuhn
Alpine Anarchist
November 2014

"I'm going to end this with a predictable summary, but I do so with a clear conscience: no one interested in the connections between punk and activism can ignore Positive Force DC, and no one with such an interest can ignore More Than a Witness either. It is an inspiring documentary that should leave anyone wondering what they themselves can contribute to the struggle for social justice. Watch it, if you get the chance – and if you have the extra cash, you might as well pick up the DVD, not just for the excellent extras but also because you'll be supporting We Are Family as this is where some of the proceeds will go."

Read more | Buy the DVD now | Back to reviews | Back to top

pfRobin Bell interviewed about ‘Positive Force: More Than a Witness
By Gregory Ayers
DC Music Downloads
November 14th, 2014

Bell’s latest project is Positive Force: More Than a Witness: Thirty Years of Punk Politics in Action. Over the course of an hour, the film features the members and musicians behind Positive Force and the activist work they’ve done over the decades. Dave Grohl, Jello Biafra, Ian MacKaye, Kathleen Hanna, and Crass’s Penny Rimbaud all make appearances.

Many of Positive Force’s volunteers are featured, as well as co-founders Mark Andersen and Kevin Mattson and other key figures from the group’s history.

pfPositive Force: More Than a Witness’ profiles a D.C. group that’s hard-core in its pursuit of change
By Dean Essner
Washington Post
November 13th, 2014

"If Robin Bell’s new documentary Positive Force: More Than a Witness is out to prove anything, it’s that D.C. punk is as much about ideals as it is about attitude.

The film chronicles the origins of Positive Force, an activist group founded in 1985 that channels punk’s raw anger and discontent to foster social change — be it delivering groceries to the elderly or raising money through benefit concerts.

It may not be as widely known or celebrated as the music itself, but the Positive Force story is inextricably linked with D.C. punk."

 

pfToo Punk For TV: Positive Force Documentary To Premiere in D.C.
By Ally Schweitzer
WAMU 88.5/ bandwidth
October 29th, 2014

"Robin Bell has spent five years working on “Positive Force: More Than A Witness.”

But the cable TV network had caught on to Simple Machines, and in 1992 the label owners invited an MTV crew to film at the residence. What happened next is already recounted in Andersen and Mark Jenkins’ book about the history of D.C.’s punk scene, Dance Of Days, but the story is revived in Robin Bell’s engrossing new documentary, Positive Force: More Than A Witness, which gets a preview at Mount Pleasant Library Thursday night and formally premieres Nov. 14-15 at St. Stephen’s Church."

Read more | Buy the DVD now | Back to reviews | Back to top

pfRecap: Positive Force: More than a Witness Screening
By Clarissa Villondo
Brightest Young Things.com
November 17th, 2014

Positive Force DC wasn’t the first Positive Force group to pop up, but it was the only one to last past the 1980s. Positive Force: More than a Witness, a documentary about the punk organization, goes through countless interviews to frame how Positive Force got its grounding within D.C. and the impact it’s made on the community. Positive Force had its own straight-edge house and later moved into its current location, St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church. From Punk Percussion Circles that drove people crazy to benefit concerts for numerous causes, Positive Force exists to create action and impact. The documentary screening itself was a benefit for We Are Family, an organization Positive Force Founder Mark Andersen is heavily involved in to help the senior citizens of Washington, D.C. The refreshments at the screening were made by local vendors with proceeds going to We Are Family.

Read more | Buy the DVD now | Back to reviews | Back to top

pfDoes D.C. Really Need Two More Punk Retrospectives?
By Maxwell Tani
Washington City Paper
November 20th, 2014

“I hope it’s more than just nostalgia, because nostalgia is kind of a totally anti-punk thing,” said Positive Force founder Mark Andersen when he joined Greer on Kojo last month.

Punk or not, those in the business of remembering one of D.C.’s greatest stakes in music history have made a big year of 2014. In the past 10 months alone, the D.C. public library announced a comprehensive punk archive; the University of Maryland launched its own D.C. punk fanzine collection; and one of the most expensive private schools in the country, George Washington University, opened a local music archive and introduced an academic course on D.C. punk history.
To cap off the year of reminiscence, two different D.C. punk-rock documentaries—Positive Force: More Than a Witness and Salad Days: The DC Punk Revolution—premiered last weekend. The former traces the history of Positive Force, the activist collective that was born out of the revolutionary rhetoric and energy of punk rock in the mid-’80s; the latter, directed by Scott Crawford, is a more traditional rock doc, following a few influential bands and exposing some of the rifts and conflicts within the local scene.

Read more | Buy the DVD now | Back to reviews | Back to top

pfD.C.'s Punk Movement: Looking Back and Ahead
By Jen Golbeck
Kojo Nnamdi Show
October 30th, 2014

t’s a chapter of D.C.’s cultural history that’s the subject of on onslaught of new documentary projects: the punk movement that took root in our area during the 1980s and 1990s. But this new wave of nostalgia has provoked tough questions too: is it overkill? Where did the creative and activist energy that fueled the art go? We ponder the past and the future of punk music in the Washington area.

Read more | Listen to the interview | Buy the DVD now | Back to reviews | Back to top

pfToo Punk For TV: Positive Force Documentary To Premiere in D.C.
By Ally Schweitzer
Bandwidth WAMU 88.5
October 29th, 2014

"Robin Bell has spent five years working on Positive Force: More Than A Witness.

But the cable TV network had caught on to Simple Machines, and in 1992 the label owners invited an MTV crew to film at the residence. What happened next is already recounted in Andersen and Mark Jenkins’ book about the history of D.C.’s punk scene, Dance Of Days, but the story is revived in Robin Bell’s engrossing new documentary, Positive Force: More Than A Witness, which gets a preview at Mount Pleasant Library Thursday night and formally premieres Nov. 14-15 at St. Stephen’s Church."

Read more | Buy the DVD now | Back to reviews | Back to top

pfPositive Force: DC Punk Activism
By Shelly Jones
Huck Magazine
June 26th, 2014

“The destructive urge is also a creative urge!” Robin Bell's new documentary about DC punk activist group Positive Force reveals the radical possibilities of a subculture.

“Revolution has to begin in the ruthless criticism of everything existing.”

Or so says the Marx quote that opens Robin Bell’s new documentary More Than a Witness about Washington DC-based punk activist organisation Positive Force. It’s summoned by one of the organisation’s co-founders Mark Andersen, who goes on to quote Bakunin too: “The destructive urge is also a creative urge.”

Combined, suggests Andersen, these quotes form the essential politics of punk. “It’s an all-out assault on business as usual,” he says, animatedly on camera, “on society, on the state, on religion, on the family. All of the sacred cows are subjected to the withering, truth-seeking gaze of punk.”

Read more | Buy the DVD now | Back to reviews | Back to top

More from Robin...

Back to top


Story Options

Search

Quick Access to:

Authors

Artists

New Releases

Featured Releases


Girl Gangs, Biker Boys, and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950 to 1980

The Future Generation: The Zine-Book for Subculture Parents, Kids, Friends & Others