Rock the Box begins with statistics: in 2014, electronic dance music–EDM for short–accounted for $6.2 billion in revenues, almost half of what the entire music industry made that year. As in too many fields, women are disproportionately underrepresented: DJMag’s 2014 list its top 100 DJs included only two women.
One of the up-and-coming female DJs looking to change that is Rhiannon “DJ Rhiannon” Rozier. A fifteen-year-veteran of the club scene, Rhiannon spun for years in her native Vancouver but received little exposure. An encounter with what she describes as “DJs being marketed as Playboy models” brought her to a realization: sex sells, and if she needed to trade on her sexuality to reach a wider audience, so be it. It was “time to tie up my shoelaces and get in the game.”
Rock the Box acknowledges a complex, multi-faceted issue, but its meager running time (a scant 10 minutes) doesn’t afford writer/director Katherine Monk enough time to examine all of those facets in much detail. The film’s press describes Rhiannon confronting “an old feminist dilemma,” but if she has doubts, she doesn’t express them here. Instead, she enthusiastically owns her sexuality with explicit lyrics (song titles include “All the Girls Do it” and “Like a Slut”), provocative music videos, and an appearance in Playboy’s Columbian edition. Monk’s focus on her subject’s sexuality tends to overshadow her music.
Rock the Box serves more as a simple statement of feminist empowerment than a thoughtful or nuanced examination of the issues Rhiannon faces as a female artist in an overwhelmingly male-dominated field. On that level, it works fine, but I would have liked a little more depth.
Screens as part of Short Cuts Programme 7:
Monday, September 14, 6:45 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Saturday, September 19, 3:45 AM, Scotiabank Theatre
Ticket information can be found at the TIFF website.