Earlier this week Green Day released the news that ”Heart Like a Hand Grenade”, a documentary that is said to have been ‘lost’ for 11 years, will finally be screened in a few selected movie theaters in October this year. The film was made by John Roecker who spent nine months in the studio filming Green Day during the recording of their award winning and highly praised punk rock opera concept album American Idiot. That was in 2004.
The story was picked up by Rolling Stone and a few other sites who used phrases such as ‘lost’ and ‘mythic status’. The director himself in a statement on Green Day’s official webpage calls it an ‘urban legend’ and claims that some fans thought ‘it was some sort of prank’. This caught my interest, so rather than just report the news I decided to dig a little deeper into the mystery.
Green Day Authority proved to be a good source. They first mention ”Heart Like a Hand Grenade” in 2006, with a comment from director Roecker who told them the movie was almost ready and would be released early in 2007. The reason for the delay was ”timing issues for it’s release”.
Obviously that release never took place, because next post is from 2008. Again, GDA has spoken to Roecker, who this time says ”the entire documentary is now complete”.
Almost a year later, the film is actually shown, but only once. In a movie theater in Hollywood a lucky 500 people get to view “Heart Like a Hand Grenade” in March 2009. The people from Green Day Authority were there and give it an overwhelming review. It is also in that review the answer to the mystery comes. ”Our only complaint is that we understand we may never have the pleasure of viewing this movie again, as Warner has no plans to authorize its release.”, the reviewers write.
So no, “Heart Like a Hand Grenade” wasn’t ever lost. It was a question of rights. Since the documentary contains the whole American Idiot album it makes sense for the record company to stop it.
Now the next question is: why now? I have no answer to this. Obviously the record label changed their mind for some reason. DIY says it’s a way to celebrate American Idiot‘s 10th anniversary later this year. That could have been a good reason, had it not been for the fact that American Idiot turned 10 in 2014.
I am left with my own guesses. It might be a question of money, some kind of agreement between Warner and John Roecker. Maybe the record company feels it’s time to put Green Day in the spotlight again. It’s been three years now since their last release, the ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, ¡Tré! trilogy, and the next album doesn’t seem to come anytime soon. Or it might be a celebration of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction earlier this year. But surely that would have been mentioned? The director’s statement ends with the line ”And finally the little film that could is being released.” But why? That question is not answered anywhere.
Another little mystery remains. Why does the movie poster say ”In theaters October 15th” when the first screening according to the schedule is actually on October 8th?
I have no information about any other showings or a possible DVD release. As a Green Day fan overseas I very much hope it will be available here at some point. A film that shows the whole recording process of American Idiot and also contains a rare concert where they perform the album in its entirety is just too good to miss. If it doesn’t get ‘lost’ again.