Slaves to the Underground

Director: Kristine Peterson
Screenwriters: Bill Cody

Institute History

  • 1997 Sundance Film Festival


Filmmaker Kristine Peterson’s film about alternative subcultures that have prospered in the clubs and coffeehouses of Seattle is an inspired and ambitious film that tells a story about contemporary love triangles and also proffers insight into present-day political perspectives and issues of self-identity. Multifaceted and full of moments of sharply worded critiques of social interaction, generation change, and culture, Slaves to the Underground is a work which avoids cliché and indulgent hipness as it provokes and excites you.

The film is on one level a romantic comedy that tells the story of Shelly, a member of an all-girl band who is also involved in a relationship with the band’s leader Suzy, an unapologetic activist. A leader of a radical lesbian circle of friends, Suzy attacks pornography, rapists, and right-wing radio commentators with a fury and fervor which would usually brand her as a narrow-minded stereotype, but for once the flickers have created a believable and even attractive, passionately political figure. Shelly’s ex-boyfriend is Jimmy, the writer/publisher of an edgy and idealistic “zine,” who is an aware and politically conscientious young man until a friend is accused of rape. Then he reacts insensitively, even blindly, to the truth of the situation. When Shelly renews her relationship with Jimmy, already-existing tensions between her and Suzy erupt.

Peterson’s storytelling talents sparkle not only as they tread difficult paths through modern sexuality and relationships but also as the film’s scope broadens. The film addresses both personal questions about success, alternative life styles, and ambition and broad cultural and political concerns. But Slaves to the Underground is not simply a political film; the quality of its filming, performances, and writing is exceptional.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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