With energy and insight, this documentary races through the life of one of the most influential musicians of the 1990s, feminist punk artist Kathleen Hanna. Her story is strikingly involving, as the filmmakers reveal personal details and show Hanna's potent impact on both the industry and society at large.
Even as a young child, Hanna had a fierce sense of justice and refused to be quiet about it. She also understood that music was the best way to get someone to listen, so in 1989 she formed Bikini Kill with her friend Tobi Vail. Their pointed lyrics and high-energy performances made a massive impact on the Olympia, Washington, grunge-punk scene. And over the following years, Hanna helped launch the feminist punk zine Riot Grrrl, created her alter-ego performer Julie Ruin and formed a second band Le Tigre. In 2005, she was forced to retire due to a mysterious illness that wasn't diagnosed as Lyme Disease for six years. She's now back on stage where she belongs.
Director Sini Anderson keeps the film moving briskly through its brief 80 minutes, although this also means that a lot of the context is lost along the way. There's never a clear timeline for Hanna's various bands, and the only real connection to other musicians is seen in her friendships with Joan Jett and Kurt Cobain (Hanna coined the phrase "smells like teen spirit"). But the film gets beneath the surface to explore the more emotional layers of her life, including her marriage to Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz, who has helped her get through her debilitating illness.
Continue reading: The Punk Singer Review
Kathleen Hanna was one of the pioneering icons of the riot grrrl feminist punk movement in the 90s as the lead singer of Bikini Kill and later Le Tigre. Outspoken and determined, she wanted to bring feminism to pop culture in a way that had never before been done, at a time where male orientated grunge artists such as Nirvana were at the top of their game. The years after her initial music career were a deep struggle for Kathleen, however, due to serious health issues. She had contracted Lyme disease which forced her to leave Le Tigre in 2005 and undergo treatment. It caused much confusion among her fans who thought she'd never stop making powerful pro-woman music, but now she's back in business with her newest band The Julie Ruin.
This candid documentary tells the story of Kathleen's chaotic career and troublesome personal life featuring intimate interviews with the likes of Kathleen herself, her husband and Beastie Boys member Adam Horovitz, Sleater-Kinney singer Carrie Brownstein, Joan Jett from Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson and Sonic Youth vocalist Kim Gordon. 'The Punk Singer' won the Women in Cinema Lena Sharpe Award at the Seattle International Film Festival where it also landed 2nd place for the Golden Space Needle Award and was nominated for the Documentary Award. It is due for release on May 23rd 2014.