Indigo Girls documentary claims ‘It’s Only Life After All’ 

Indigo Girls documentary claims ‘It’s Only Life After All’ 

Updated: 9 days, 7 hours, 27 minutes, 16 seconds ago

[caption id="attachment_120776" align="alignnone" width="300"]The Indigo Girls, from left, Emily Saliers and Amy Ray, are the subjects of documentary filmmaker Alexandria Bombach’s “It’s Only Life After All,” which premiered Thursday at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. The film digs into the Atlanta-based singer-songwriters lifelong friendship, their nearly 40-year musical career and political activism.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_120777" align="alignnone" width="225"]Award-winning filmmaker Alexandria Bombach peels back the layers of the Indigo Girls with her new documentary "It's Only Life After All" that premiered Thursday at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.[/caption]

The Indigo Girls, from left, Emily Saliers and Amy Ray, are the subjects of documentary filmmaker Alexandria Bombach’s “It’s Only Life After All,” which premiered Thursday at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. The film digs into the Atlanta-based singer-songwriters lifelong friendship, their nearly 40-year musical career and political activism.
Photo by Michael Lavine

The new documentary about the Indigo Girls that premiered Thursday at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival is titled “It’s Only Life After All.”

The title fits the 123-minute film, which is part of the festival’s Premieres programming, because it shows how the folk-rock duo Amy Ray and Emily Saliers crammed multiple lifetimes into a musical career that started in the late 1980s. And it also takes into account that the career is just a part of a friendship that began when the two met in elementary school. 

The film’s title comes from the musical pair’s 1989 Grammy Award-winning single
“Closer to Fine.” That’s suitable because filmmaker Alexandria Bombach shows how Ray and Saliers continue to progress with their music, personal lives, activism and demons such as anger and alcoholism.

Their activism includes fighting for and raising awareness about LGBTQ+ rights, immigration reform, education, abolishingcapital punishment and Native American rights.

Their work as co-founders with economist Winona LaDuke of Honor the Earth, a nonprofit dedicated to the survival of sustainable Native communities, could have easily been covered in a separate documentary alone.

In fact, their work has brought them to Utah with their opposition to storing nuclear waste on the Goshute reservation in Skull Valley.

The challenge for Bombach, who won the 2018 Sundance Film Festival’s U.S. The Documentary Directing Award for her film “On Her Shoulders,” was piecing together a documentary that not only touched on all of the above but also highlighted the Atlanta-based singer-songwriters music, which is, arguably, where the trajectory of their activism started.

Award-winning filmmaker Alexandria Bombach peels back the layers of the Indigo Girls with her new documentary “It’s Only Life After All” that premiered Thursday at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.
Courtesy of the Sundance Institute

Using home movies, Ray’s archived camcorder videos, audio cassette tapes and CDs, Bombach digs down to the roots of Ray’s and Saliers’ musical connection.

The filmmaker also strums up snippets of interviews with fans who, more often than not, cite Ray and Saliers as the two who saved their lives or gave them permission to be themselves. 

Sundance Film Festival logo

Bombach also uses the soundtrack that not only includes “Closer to Fine,” but also “Least Complicated,” “Power of Two,” “Galileo” and “Land of Canaan” to emphasize milestones and challenges.

Some of those challenges include simply being a lesbian folk-rock duo during the late 1980s, when many gay and lesbian artists chose to stay in the closet, dealing with the systemic prejudices laid down by the Christian right and the toxic masculinity found in the music business.

It’s interesting to watch a number of interviews; some ranked high on the cringy scale, that broadcast journalists have conducted with the duo throughout the years. 

There’s even a scene when the women separately read the now infamous concert review by John Pareles titled “2 Much to Tell,” published on Aug. 7, 1989, in the New York Times.

The Indigo Girls, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, are Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriters and political activists from Atlanta, Georgia.
Photo by Jeremy Cowart

Still, through those scenes and snippets of newspaper and magazine articles, viewers get a good sense of Ray’s and Salier’s individual personalities and how their separate idiosyncrasies inform their decisions regarding how they approach their music, their respective families, the issues they choose to support and even how they construct their concert setlists.

When it’s all said and done, “It’s Only Life After All,” which is executive produced in part by Geralyn White Dreyfous, Utah Film Center founder and board chair, puts human faces, desires, fears and accomplishments on the screen for all to see, something that peels back the mystique these two iconic songwriters have built, rode and maintained over the past four decades.