Are We Punks Or Not?

An interview with Telmo Soares

Are We Punks Or Not? by Telmo Soares

Musician and filmmaker Telmo Soares HAS captured the story of 5ª Punkada, a rock band whose members are from a cerebral palsy association. Existing for more than 25 years with weekly rehearsals, and more than 200 gigs, marked by line-up changes caused by health issues, the feature portrays the various facets of active participation and the love of music, the willpower and the need to overcome all the barriers musicians with disability might face.

Telmo Soares

Telmo Soares

Can you tell us about the background of the project? How did you find this band?

A few years ago, we worked with the Cerebral Palsy Association of Coimbra (APCC) and it was a really fun experience. We heard about this amazing rock band named 5ª Punkada, whose members were from the APCC and had various disabilities but rocked like no other. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the opportunity to meet them at the time. A couple of years later, Omnichord (a music label and a cultural agency from my hometown) started this amazing project with the band and challenged us to film with them. Of course, we were extremely excited and took up the challenge right away.

Neurodivergency and disability is something we don't really see on rock stages - though a true diversity won't be achieved without all-encompassing inclusivity. Was your aim to bring this into attention? Is this also why the film is called Are We Punks Or Not?

Music is a universal language; it doesn’t care about who you are, that’s the beauty of it. From the moment you step on a stage, all that makes you different fades away. And, if you are passionate and honest about your music, like the wonderful musicians of 5ª Punkada, you can really make a difference. I’ve known a lot of rock/punk bands and few of them have such a pure punk attitude as them.

Film still

Are We Punks Or Not?

Do you also view the documentary form as a tool to make a change in society at large?

I think it can be a little arrogant to think you are going to change society with your documentary. The ones really changing it are people, like the guys from 5ª Punkada and everyone working with them. As a filmmaker, I can only try my best to document it and make sure their work doesn’t go unnoticed.

How did you approach the filmmaking - the film focuses on the rehearsals, and the active music making. How did the rehearsals develop, and were there any challenges?

Rehearsals with 5ª Punkada are always a joy, everyone has a huge smile because everyone is doing what they love. All of them are immensely creative and that was one of the things I was more interested in highlighting. This creative and fun environment made everything easier, so there weren’t many challenges during rehearsals.

Are We Punks or Not?

What has happened with the band since the completion of your film? Are you still in touch with them?

We are all good friends, I’ve been with them regularly since then and I follow their music path as a huge fan. They’ve been playing live more and more and I’ve heard rumours that a European tour is on the way.

Telmo, you are also a musician yourself, do you think this influences your music documentary making?

I think it helps me to look at the world from a more sensitive perspective. I find that music helps me understand and connect to the people around me and, in a way, filmmaking is all about that connection. They’re two different languages, but in the end they both require you to be compassionate and tuned with the little things in life.

What projects are you working on right now?

We’ve been shooting some really interesting music videos lately and we are preparing some big projects for this year. Music has always been part of my work as a filmmaker and I hope these two fields continue to go hand in hand.