Heavy Load

A UK punk band — whose members include several musicians with learning disabilities — take center stage at a mainstream music festival.

Film Signature Image
Premiere Date
June 23, 2008
90 minutes
Funding Initiative
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2008 Columbus International Film & Video Festival-Chris Award, Silver
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2008 BritDoc Film Festival-Audience Award
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2008 Boomtown Film and Music Festival-Best Documentary
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2008 Boomtown Film and Music Festival-Best In Show Award
  • Producer/Director

    Jerry Rothwell

    Jerry Rothwell is a documentary filmmaker whose work includes the award-winning feature docs, Heavy Load, about a group of people with learning disabilities who form a punk band, Donor Unknown about a sperm donor and his many offspring and Deep Water, co-directed with Louise Osmond, about Donald Crowhurst’s ill-fated voyage in the 1968 round the world Show more yacht race. His past credits include The Late George Shaw, for Channel 4’s Art Show series, the Modern Painters series of short films for Channel 4 and TV and radio programmes for BBC, Carlton, Channel 4, Teachers TV, and the Arts Council. Another strand of Jerry's work has been participatory production, working with people to tell their own stories on film. He played in lead role in developing Hi8us Projects improvised dramas with young people for Channel 4, in establishing First Light, the UK Film Council's scheme for young filmmakers, and in setting up digital storytelling exchanges between marginalised communities across Europe. His latest film is Town of Runners, premiered at Tribeca Film Festival. Show less


    Al Morrow

    Al Morrow is an award-winning producer and Head of Documentary at Met Film Production. She produced the feature documentary Deep Water (Pathe, UKFC, FilmFour), winner of the Grierson award for Best Cinema Documentary 2007; and Jerry Rothwell's Heavy Load (IFCtv, ITV, BBC), which won the Audience Award at the Britdoc Festival in 2008 and the inaugural CDN Show more Cultural Diversity Award for Excellence in Creative Output in 2009. She is in production on Jerry's upcoming feature documentaries Donor 150 (More 4, Arte, NRK), and Town of Runners (Britdoc Channel 4 Foundation, Digital Rights Group). She is in active development on a wide range of projects including Jeanie Finlay's, The Great Hip Hop Hoax (BBC Scotland) and Jerry's How to Change the World, which is being developed through the UK Film Council. Show less


    Jonny Persey

    Jonny Persey is an independent film producer and managing director of Met Film Production. His feature film credits include Deep Water (Pathe, UKFC, FilmFour), Wondrous Oblivion (Momentum), and the documentary The Pied Piper of Hutzovina. Jonny studied at the National Film & Television School where he produced a series of acclaimed short films Show more both through the school and independently. He serves on PACT’s Film Policy Group and is a member of ACE. Jonny is also Director of the Met Film School at Ealing. Show less

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    The Film

    Heavy Load follows a year in the life of a British punk band, some of whose members have learning disabilities. Aside from that, they’re subject to the same inflammatory mix of ego, fantasy, and desire that fuels any emerging band. But their unique situation finds them negotiating the perilous space between two different worlds: On the one hand they must abide the institutional timetable of day centers, work placements, and social workers; on the other hand, there’s the chaotic slacker life of rehearsals, studios, and gigs. Home life and band life; from invisibility to stardom of a sort, and back again.

    But this is not a film about a young band on the road to making it. Specializing in thrash covers of late ’70s punk – or punk versions of recent pop, Heavy Load are unlikely to have a top 10 hit. “We like to take a classic song,” says guitarist Mick, “and crucify it.” Their cacophonic reinterpretation of Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” possesses a frenzied anarchy that bears no resemblance to the disco original. Their howled version of the Troggs “Wild Thing” adds a psychotic menace that makes you forget that this was once a love song. On stage, the band fizzes with an energy that belies the expectations the world has of the people derisively dismissed as the "spaz" or the "moron" or the "idiot." They survive through a combination of raucous energy, attitude, and sheer volume.

    Shot over two years, during which Heavy Load record their first album The Queen Mother’s Dead, the film is a comedy of conflicting ambitions, capturing the excitement, sweat, and romance of playing in a band through the eyes of a set of unique characters as they graduate from playing disability club nights and take center stage at a mainstream music festival.