DiFranco Further Explores Social, Political Themes In First Video

Feature excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

After more than 15 albums and numerous requests from fans, Ani DiFranco finally found time recently to put together her first long-form video, "Render: Spanning Time With Ani DiFranco."

What was the experience like? "Traumatic," the revered folkie says with a hearty laugh. "It's pretty brutal watching yourself on TV. Unless you're f***in' Cindy Crawford, or whatever, I think it's a dicey proposition for any of us. So I had to get over a lot of, ya know, just self-loathing to work on it."

The two-hour "Render," released on DVD/VHS June 11 via DiFranco's Righteous Babe label, is less a road film than an actual movie about the hard-touring singer's life over the past five years and the many topics she discusses in song. While it finds the singer at home, on the road, and in the studio, the film also delves into many of the political and social themes running though such songs as "Subdivision," "'Tis of Thee," and "Two Little Girls," all of which are performed live here.

Shot largely by friend Hilary Goldberg, "Render" also features performances of the previously unreleased songs "In the Way" and "Slide" -- only "Slide" is available on the VHS version -- and cameos by Hammell on Trial, as well as DiFranco's fellow Righteous Babe acts Utah Phillips and the duo Bitch and Animal.

"Render" offers a "first opportunity for many fans to get a glimpse of Ani, outside of buying a ticket for a concert," says Righteous Babe president Scot Fisher, also DiFranco's manager. What's more, he says the film gives fans a look at DiFranco writing a song, something even Fisher himself doesn't get to experience very often. "You're kind of left going, 'Oh, that's where a song comes from, there's where it happens,'" he says. "Ani's very prolific, but often you don't get to see how it's created before it's already ready and in stores."

Following the release of "Render," DiFranco plans to issue "So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter" -- her second live album (following 1997's "Living in Clip") -- in the fall. The album will include a version of "Self Evident," a poem about the events of Sept. 11. "In the Way" and "Slide," meanwhile, will show up on her as-yet-untitled follow-up to last year's two-disc set "Revelling/Reckoning."

However traumatic, DiFranco says there was an upside to working on "Render": "It was also very instructive, seeing performances of the songs and just kind of what this s*** looks like from out there. It's not a perspective I get. Ya know, everything from, 'Oh, that's what the lights look like' to 'That's what you're doing back there' -- I never see my band.

"But, yeah, like anything it was very instructive while it was brutal. Two words: body image," she adds with a laugh. "You think, like, 'Oh, Christ, that's what I look like when I'm jumpin' around, flailin' like the grease monkey I am.'"

Excerpted from the June 15, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.

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