Review: 'Fanny: The Right To Rock' is Compelling Viewing

by Roger Walker-Dack

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday May 27, 2022

'Fanny: The Right To Rock'
'Fanny: The Right To Rock'  (Source:Outfest)

Award-winning Canadian documentarian Bobbi Jo Hart has a knack for uncovering queer stories that we may have heard of but for the most part, are untold. She showed that talent beautifully with her affectionate and in-depth look at Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, the world's foremost all-male ballet company, in "Rebels on Pointe." With "Fanny: The Right To Rock" she turns her camera on the trailblazing '70s all-female rock band who never got the recognition they deserved.

The story of Fanny starts in the 1960s, when two teenage Filipino-American sisters were getting gigs as an all-girl rock 'n roll band. They called themselves "The Svelts," and they had a drummer join them to perform covers of Top 40 hits.

They soon got bored with the local scene and decided if they really wanted to make it in the music industry they would have to move to LA, so they did just that... move and make it. After a gig at the legendary Troubadour, they got signed by Richard Perry at Warner Brothers and started recording their debut album.

They rented Hedy Lamar's old house in Hollywood, renamed it Fanny Hill, and started communal living that included a whole stream of other rock musicians. Strangely enough, there never seemed to be any condemnation of their drugs, sex, and rock n roll lifestyle, but because of the (male) management of the record label the lesbian members of their Band had to keep their sexuality totally under wraps.

Although too few of the public may remember Fanny now, Hart interviews a string of musicians who wax lyrically about both their talent and their rightful place in rock history. At their peak, Fanny opened for acts like Humble Pie, Deep Purple, Slade, and Jethro Tull. The doc includes archival footage of countless appearances on TV, one in particular hosted by an angelic-looking Helen Reddy..

Fanny's biggest successes, however, were over in the UK, where they were mobbed at every appearance — something they sadly never got back home. One of the sisters even dated their most famous British fan, David Bowie, for a whole year.

Their inability to break into the big time, like The Go-Go's and other female groups that would eventually follow them, rankled. The '70s proved to be a rough and unhappy time for Fanny, with the record company insisting they wear much sexier clothes. This, combined with people leaving and then having money problems. led to them disbanding in 1976.

The story doesn't end there. Without spoiling anything, Fanny marks their 50th Anniversary with a re-emergence and renewal. What makes this particularly endearing is that by this point in the tale we are so enamored by the band members' passion for music and each other we want (and deserve) a happy ending.

Hart's uncovering of this exhilarating piece of queer/Filipino/female/music history is way past due and makes for compelling viewing.

"Fanny: The Right To Rock" opens in select theaters on May 27

Roger Walker-Dack, a passionate cinephile, is a freelance writer, critic and broadcaster and the author/editor of three blogs. He divides his time between Miami Beach and Provincetown.