New Documentary Punk the Capital Traces History of Iconic Washington D.C. Hardcore Scene

Featuring members of Minor Threat, Bad Brains, Black Flag, and more

Punk the Capital documentary
Minor Threat’s Ian MacKaye, photo by Tiffany Pruitt

    A new documentary tracing the history of the iconic Washington D.C. hardcore-punk scene is set for release. Punk the Capital: Building a Sound Movement will open in select theaters and via virtual cinema on May 14th, and then arrive on BluRay/DVD on Record Store Day (June 8th).

    The 88-minute documentary features some of the biggest names from the D.C. scene circa 1976-1983 such as Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Void, Rites of Spring, and more. Among the punk luminaries interviewed are H.R. (Bad Brains), Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat, Fugazi), Henry Rollins (Black Flag), Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys), and others.

    Punk the Capital is billed as the first film to tell the story of D.C.’s influential punk and DIY movement. Few cities had a more vibrant scene during such a pivotal era for punk rock. Bolstered by the distribution of MacKaye’s Dischord Records and a staunchly inclusive philosophy (i.e. all ages shows, $5 tickets no-questions-asked), D.C. set the template for DIY culture.


    Just like a Fugazi tour, filmmakers James June Schneider, Paul Bishow, and Sam Lavine wanted to get Punk the Capital in front of as many in-person viewers as possible. They tirelessly set up screenings with special guests — Rollins, MacKaye, Cynthia Connolly, and HR of Bad Brains have all appeared at least once — in an attempt to reach 100 consecutive events (they got to 50 before the pandemic).

    “We were touring the film like a band would until the pandemic hit,” Schneider said in a press release. “Now as things open back up, we’re glad to kick off the theatrical release for a variety of reasons.”

    “Before we release the film on DVD/Blu-ray we wanted to undertake a big push with a theatrical release, part virtual, part in person, that I hope will do its part in getting some of these struggling indie cinemas some much-needed support,” he continued. “And we also are looking forward to sharing the film in these times since it’s an optimistic film essentially about building something new and constructive despite the odds.”


    The film’s original cut was over 7 hours long (!), so the filmmakers edited the excess material into mini-episodes for the Blu-Ray and DVD releases. One episode will feature the band Scream, notable for being drummer Dave Grohl’s pre-Nirvana band.

    For a list of theaters and more information, visit the film’s website. Watch the trailer below.