True moments of cultural rebellion in the United States are few and far between. American Hardcore documents one of the more recent and influential examples: the punk-music scene that exploded out of California in the early eighties. Director Paul Rachman and writer Steven Blush use Blush’s 2001 book “American Hardcore: A Tribal History” as a jumpingoff point. They trace the rise and fall of key bands like Black Flag, Minor Threat and Bad Brains, while mining the social history of the period through fans and critics who flesh out how this movement actually got going. The good news is that many of the key players took it easy on the drug front, so interviews with musicians like Henry Rollins are lucid, funny and precise. Their thesis is that Ronald Reagan’s conservative “revolution” created a tribe untethered from traditional political discourse. These kids saw no hope in government institutions, leftist politics or any global ideologies, except maybe Sex Pistols-style nihilism. By figuring it out on the fly, these kids – Rachman and Blush among them – originated the DIY attitudes now almost taken for granted in today’s online culture. They have also found exceptional archival footage: Grimy, out of focus and shot on cameras that could never capture a true colour, the images perfectly convey the shaggy authenticity of the performances – and they have a ton of it. The ritualized violence of the shows, which seemed so dangerous and transgressive at the time, now looks sort of charming. The young musicians – now all getting depressingly long in the tooth – are vibrant, hyper-masculine (it’s startling how few women appear in this film) and totally immersed in their underground world. Ultimately this chronicle has a message of hope. By creating out of nothing a subculture that had a lasting impact on music and culture, the hardcore scene serves as an example for frustrated teens and young adults today who, once again, are feeling totally disconnected from national institutions and global politics.