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Thursday, March 11, 2021

Underplayed: Documentary Review


The Documentary: Underplayed

The Director: Stacey Lee

The Story: Filmed over the summer festival season, Underplayed presents a portrait of the current status of the gender, ethnic, and sexuality equality issues in dance music.


The Review:
The more documentaries and stories I see and hear about women in whatever industry they are in, the more it becomes apparent that gatekeeping is alive and well in each of them. It's amazing how much talent and energy and creativity just gets flat out ignored because it's coming from a woman. You'd like to think we could get past these biases whether they are gender, race, orientation, or basically anything else that provides diversity to our society and culture and yet here we are discussing yet another white male dominated profession.

"In 2019, only 5 of the top 100 DJ's were women."

Director Stacey Lee dives headfirst into this topic while also introducing a group of women who could easily and should be dominating the dance music scene. Lee's visual style is just as bold and flashy as the women in the film and she also adds a level of depth and history to the documentary that is also equally matched with her subjects that not only include some of today's top producers and performers but also the pioneers who paved the way for electronic music over the last several decades. There are so many untold or little known stories of women in the world of dance music, it was amazing to see so much of it packed into this roughly 90 minute documentary. Also keep in mind, a lot of the production of this film was completed remotely over the last year during the pandemic which makes this an even more impressive and collaborative effort by everyone involved.

"Women make up less than 3% of technical and production roles in the music industry."

Full disclosure here, I don't listen to a lot of dance music other than what I hear on our local dance music station here in Seattle, C89.5 and the only woman in the doc that I have heard of before is TokiMonsta thanks to a podcast interview I did last year with rapper Lex The Lexicon Artist. It was really fun to learn about these amazing women who come from all walks of life and are bringing so much creativity and positive energy to the scene. Based on what I saw in this doc, I would love to see any or all of them live. Hopefully that can be a thing again some day soon.

"In the top 150 clubs, the annual percentage of female DJ's is 6%."

Visually, this documentary is stunning. It is just as big and bold and colorful as the women being portrayed and could easily pass as a glossy music video all of which enhances the performances and concert footage. This is a story that is long overdue and a story that needs to be told. Women like Rezz, Tygapaw, Sherelle, and Alison Wonderland deserve every bit of attention they can get and I hope they are able to continue to break down doors and create new opportunities for themselves and for the women who will follow them.


The Verdict:
Underplayed is a documentary that should be in heavy rotation on anyone's movie playlist. Stacey Lee's debut directorial effort should be commended for taking such a deep dive into music industry diversity issues while shining a spotlight on some truly amazing and talented women.

For more info on the documentary and the women in the film, go to underplayedthefilm.com.


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