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Indigo Girls Documentary Premieres Nationwide: A Deep Dive into Folk Duo’s Journey

Directed by Alexandria Bombach, Film Explores the Lives, Legacy of Amy and Emily

By Dolores Quintana

The music documentary Indigo Girls: It’s Only Life After All, about the iconic and groundbreaking folk duo, premiered at Sundance this year. It will be in over 120 theaters starting on Wednesday, April 10th (see theaters here) before heading to video on demand on May 7th. Directed by Alexandria Bombach, the film currently holds a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls says about the film, “From our earliest days at Little Five Points Community Pub in Atlanta, the ideal of ‘community’ has informed our music and activism. We feel blessed to have worked with such a compelling crew of folks, who created a document that reflects the vital part our audience, activists, friends, family, and mentors play in our ongoing creative lives.” 

Indigo Girls’ Emily Saliers says, “It is a beautiful documentary that captures the life force of our community. Now our community has an opportunity to see it on the big screen—we are thankful for that.” 

I spoke with director Alexandria Bombach about how she came to make the documentary, what she wanted to tell people about the Indigo Girls with her film, and exactly how much extra footage she had for the DVD release. 

Dolores Quintana: Could you tell me a little bit about how you came to make the film? What put you on the path of documenting the lives of these two musicians?

Alexandria Bombach: I met Amy Ray and Emily Saliers in the fall of 2017. I was in the midst of finishing a film that was a very heavy documentary. I saw them in concert and met them backstage because of one of our producers who has known them for a really long time. I had a really good conversation with Emily, and then I wondered if anyone had ever done an Indigo Girls documentary. So I took a look at IMDB on the phone and saw that no one had. I thought, “Wow, I wonder I wonder if they would let me do that.” My friend asked them and then they watched my previous documentary, On Her Shoulders. 

I think I really appreciated the activism in that film. They’ve never said yes to anyone. They always turn people down. And if they said yes to me, that’s great. So it really is the first film and the first film that they’ve officially said yes to as a documentary about their lives. 

Dolores Quintana: So what is the core of the film? What did you want people to know about Amy and Emily?

Alexandria Bombach: I think the beginning of the process is very different than in the end. If you are making a documentary, hopefully, you’re searching for that the whole time. Starting out with a lot of questions and then ending up with a lot of answers, and then really just left with one question for the audience. But, for me, it was very much about the emotional journey of these two people
These two incredibly impressive human beings and I just wanted to capture that and find out what brought them to be, who they are, and what the lessons that they’ve learned. Luckily, Amy and Emily are incredibly forthcoming; they were very trusting in this film and offered up a lot of
details, and self-reflection, which was probably the most important thing. Really incredible because I think it’s just such a gift to the film and the many people who really care about their music or those who have yet to know them. 

Dolores Quintana: I think the great thing about a music documentary is that it can expose a whole new audience to an artist or the artist’s work. Obviously, there are some triumphant moments and some peaks of achievement. Does the film document some of the opposition they faced while they were either coming up or in the world of music? Does it talk about any troubles that they might have had during their career? Basically, it is not easy for women in the entertainment industry, particularly in the music industry

Alexandria Bombach: So much of the film is made up of archival footage, so it’s kind of hard because there are so many moments that weren’t captured on screen or things that are harder to see like microaggressions, homophobia, and the sexism that they had to face, that in the moment when they read a review and there’s so much sexism in that review. But at the moment, you’re kind of questioning yourself and trying to figure out, but then wait, no, no, that’s super homophobic, actually.

What’s great is that there’s a conversation about that when Emily, at one point in her career, has one reaction to that review that had a homophobic joke. But then now, Emily says, “No, no, actually that’s not funny. It is a different time, not the 90s or the 2000s, and now, she can reflect and say, “Wow, that’s really messed up.”

It’s not the first documentary to look at that, but Amy and Emily were in a very particular situation, they were the most iconic lesbians in music at that time. So they were the butt of a lot of jokes. What’s great is this story offered them a platform to retake that narrative. Take a look at it. In the interest of mine going into this. 

Dolores Quintana: It’s so easy for people to think they’re being clever or maybe they are being malicious, but, you know, with like someone who’s like an artist, who’s very sensitive, a creator
I think that can actually cause them to question what they do and who they are. Because they don’t just laugh it off. Their art makes them more vulnerable. 

Alexandria Bombach: I don’t think it’s just for artists; I think it’s like that for everybody. I think it’s really relatable. It talks about the incredible transformation of the community and the generations. I’m so glad that we are talking about these aspects of internalized homophobia. The things that get brushed off and that we don’t talk about. 

Alexandria Bombach: Amy and Emily are a massive part of queer history, queer music history. So when you have legends, speaking about internalized homophobia, and the obstacles that they face, not just externally, but internally, it can be a very powerful experience for the people that look up to them. People who watch the film can relate to all of that. They can think, “Oh, yeah, you’re feeling this too.”

Dolores Quintana: Since so much of the footage was archival, what was it like putting it all together? 

Alexandria Bombach: A lot of the footage was behind the scenes of making the album because Amy had a camera, and her dad had a camera. It was an incredible treasure trove of footage for a documentary filmmaker. And yeah, there was also this incredible website that was made by a dedicated fan and kept track of every single thing in their lives. It is an incredible source of information. There was everything at my fingertips, which is almost harder than when there is very little footage. It felt like drowning. Drowning in the honey, almost it was like, I could have made hundreds of different films. But thankfully, I’m making DVD extras right now. I’m gonna be able to put so much more on the DVD.

Dolores Quintana: I think people think of like performance on stage as an ethereal thing like it’s only there once and then it’s gone. But having that history really enriches your appreciation of an artist, I think.

Alexandria Bombach: Totally, and reading on that website. I’m seeing the setlist for this show, making connections for many different shows, and finding how they transition from singing that song into this song. All these details. Although they’re not in the film, it’s a story about what they were going through. Oh, it’s so interesting that Amy wrote that song that year. It’s so weird.

So it was incredible to have that kind of documentation and documentation by fans is absolutely vital. 

Alexandria Bombach: Another thing that was interesting to me was their very early work, even the music that they were writing in high school. Getting a sense of what they felt about that, those sounds now, led to one of the more interesting and funny scenes of the movie: getting their reaction to older songs. I think it’s a cool insight into them. 

There is so much more to say about the creative process about who we are as people and how we grow. 

Dolores Quintana: Is there anything that you would like a viewer to take away from this film? If so, what, what would that be?

Alexandria Bombach: I think, specifically for the LGBTQ audience, I really think, this is a film about queer community. Amy and Emily have cultivated that and have prioritized it for their entire lives and in their careers. I’m just so excited for people to see this, especially in theater in the community, and get the chance to be together and take their friends and everybody; it’s gonna be incredible, parties going on after screenings and get-togethers all across the country. I think it’s just a massive takeaway of how important community is in our lives and Amy and Emily have an incredible story that feeds into that. 

Dolores Quintana: I think that’s a great thing because community is something that we all need, really, we need a lot more of right now. Because things are getting so dark in our country, I think community, and a film that encourages that community in particular, is very important right now and going into the future.

Alexandria Bombach: You have heard the phrase preach to the choir. But for the choir right now. It might be nice to sit with each other. We all know this stuff is important, but we have to be reminded. Also, there’s a lot of joy and laughter in this film, and I think we all need that, too. I’m really just over the moon about how the sun was being received and how people feel very held by this film. It means a lot, and that was the goal.

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