‘The Punk Singer: A Film About Kathleen Hanna’ Directed by Sini Anderson (2013)

Debuted in 2013 and doing the rounds now with city screenings, festivals and TV broadcast is the awesome documentary The Punk Singer: A Film About Kathleen Hanna. This is old news to many no doubt, but having only just had the chance to check it out properly I’ve walked away delightfully shocked at the creative force that is Kathleen Hanna, and her commitment to art first, and activism / politics second.

Bikini Kill dropped in to the final stages of the years involving my introduction to punk. A girl known as Ruvi Soho and a few ripped cassettes as well as a Triple J special offered a rough and ready education, always with an emphasis on the band’s ‘meaning’ and importance as part of the riot grrrl movement of the ’90s.

Feeling slightly stupid now for not having dug deeper at the time.

The riot grrrl movements, as meaningful and important as they were, were plagued by average sounding bands who’s main cause seemed to be having a front woman on stage to be seen rather than to be a band. Kathleen Hanna was not one of these women. Not only did she have shit to say but she was making it happen, and above all was a damn good writer, singer and musician.

Through art, fashion and music, Hanna is just pure energy, an explosion of attitude. If she’d decided to save the whales through electronic installations I have no doubt we’d still know who she was. As it happens though, finding a cause in feminism dictated the direction of what she would become as an artist.

A sub-culture couldn’t help but be drawn in around Hanna and her projects. She’s a character like Andy Warhol that would action her ideas, and that people wanted to be around and part of. The Punk Singer charts how she evolved in to her beliefs, and her unique ability to front a band that mattered in a space where nothing had existed before. Ski mask interviews? They did it first. Girls at the front gigs? New and meaningful. Hell, Kathleen Hanna even gave Kurt Cobain the title ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’

In her role as ‘the first’ of manys she was forced to be an unspoken martyr of sorts, becoming an easy target for hate. And The Punk Singer doesn’t shy away from showing how this can change a situation. Enter Julie Ruin, a side of Kathleen Hanna recorded by herself in her bedroom using samples, which still sounds amazing.

Le Tigre and ‘TKO’ came soon after, but we’ll leave the spoilers there for those that don’t know. We will say that a nice reference point for the film is that Hanna stopped performing live in 2005, and no one really knew why. That ongoing battle of hers is where the film ends, and a changed existence to some degree, with a mellower music tact and new outlook on like.

Quite disappointing that due to timing of release and lazy journalism The Punk Singer and A Punk Prayer (chronicling the arrest and trials of Pussy Riot) have drawn unjustifiable comparisons to each other. But in reality they couldn’t be more different.

This film is about Kathleen Hanna, and incredibly driven individual, blessed with punk rock charisma, stage presence and a stunning voice. The politics are an element but not the purpose, as opposed to A Punk Prayer which revolves around a set of circumstances in a period of time.

As an end note, I was surprised to find out the close links to The Beastie Boys. Despite my severe fandom I hadn’t been aware that Ad-Rock (co-author of ‘Hey Ladies’ and ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’) has been married to Kathleen since 2006, and had no idea that she’d penned the famous ‘Woodstock ’99’ acceptance speech. Nor did I know that Mike D’s wife Tamra Davis had helped finish the film.

This is must-watch for pretty much anyone, mainly due to the subject. Brilliant film-making, big ups everyone involved.

via The Punk Singer

Kathleen Hanna, lead singer of the punk band Bikini Kill and dance-punk trio Le Tigre, rose to national attention as the reluctant but never shy voice of the riot grrrl movement. She became one of the most famously outspoken feminist icons, a cultural lightning rod. Her critics wished she would just shut-up, and her fans hoped she never would. So in 2005, when Hanna stopped shouting, many wondered why. Through 20 years of archival footage* and intimate interviews with Hanna, THE PUNK SINGER takes viewers on a fascinating tour of contemporary music and offers a never-before-seen view into the life of this fearless leader.