The Gits: How to Come Home

The Gits: How to Come Home

Beginning research for a feature on Home Alive, a non-profit organization based in Seattle, Washington dedicated to teaching women self defense, Kerri O'Kane stumbled upon the impetus for the group’s founding. It wasn’t a pretty one.

During the early ‘90s as the entire world began to obsess about the music that was flooding out of the Northwest, a band called the Gits was poised to make a move to a major label after working out an album released by C/Z Records.

The group, comprised of friends who met at Ohio’s Antioch College, were living normal daily lives as grunt workers, while at night each performed as a part of a powerful band. Seattle, even today, is perceived to be one of the safer, large American cities. It is. Walks through the Central District, one of the ‘bad parts’ of town, really don’t present itself as too much of a problem.

Back in ’93, though as Gits’ lead singer, Mia Zapata, made her way home through the CD, she was beaten, raped and murdered. Her body was left in the middle of the street and found by another woman making her own way home.

Zapata’s murder was the reason that her friends rallied to create Home Alive, which would eventually become a national organization. And as O’Kane researched more and more about the non-profit, as well as Zapata, the filmmaker realized the more important story to tell was that of Zapata and the Gits.

At the age of 27 it seemed that Zapata had only successes to look forward to. Her band was doing well and she was apparently surrounded by a group of people that she not only considered her friends, but were her admirers. Captured by O’Kane’s lens is a deference that even a decade and change since her death hasn’t dissipated.

The majority of the film is given over to impassioned reminiscing, but considering the fact that the subject matter is so compelling, footage never seems contrived. Zapata’s father gets teary eyed a few times – and in those moments, viewers should feel a sort of nagging at the back of their collective throats. This is a horrible story – one with no rhyme or reason.

When the movie – simply called The Gits – began production, Zapata’s killer hadn’t been found. Towards the end of O’Kane’s work, though, DNA evidence brought the killer to justice. Jesus Mezquia was captured in Florida and tried for his decade old crime.

The eventual incarceration - for 36 years - of Mezquia functioned as a suitable ending to The Gits. But without that occurrence, it’s clear that as the film wears on that there wasn’t an easy way to tie all of this up neatly. And at about the one hour mark, the film seems to get bogged down by still photos and repetitive use of show footage.

The Gits might have wound up garnering a modicum of acclaim because of the topic that it touched – and how that topic touched so many others – but the fact remains that even at a run time of eighty minutes, there’s a lot that could have been done differently.