Singer-songwriter duo Indigo Girls open up about music industry sexism and homophobia in Alexandria Bombach’s documentary.
Sundance Film Festival kicked off this year with the premiere of It’s Only Life After All, a documentary from Alexandria Bombach (On Her Shoulders) about longtime singer-songwriter duo Indigo Girls. Incorporating behind-the-scenes video from Amy Ray, archival concert videos, past interview footage, and audio cassette tape rehearsals, the film depends largely on the voices of Ray and Emily Saliers to tell their own story.
After a fairly generic opening with the musicians prepping for a photo shoot (the film closes in a similar formulaic manner as well), It’s Only Life After All finds its rhythm and energy by the time the song “Galileo” hits. While the form of the documentary tends to lean towards the chronological, the topics discussed by Saliers and Ray encompass decades. Although fans and viewers are likely aware of their queerness and the activism that comes with their powerful music, there’s other history here that may be less familiar.
While talking of the band’s early days and long career, the members of Indigo Girls are frank about Ray’s past anger issues, Saliers’s alcoholism, their self-doubt, and their reckoning of their white privilege amidst their activism for environmental and social justice. The documentary also reminds us of the misogyny and homophobia the band faced coming up in the 1980s and ’90s, with sexist music critics and awkward TV interviews.
Here’s where the documentary might have benefitted from a few interviews with musicians who came up after the Indigo Girls. While the choice to only interview Ray and Saliers emphasizes these two women’s voices and experiences, it also feels like a missed opportunity—especially since Ray notes early on, “Our hope was that [the film] could be about something besides just us.”
It’s Only Life After All feels long and the chapter transitions can be clunky. Despite the pacing issues, however, the candor and honesty from Saliers and Ray on their band’s history and experience is the film’s strength. I certainly enjoyed the opportunity to sing along with the songs I still remember decades later.