The Punk Singer

by William E. Badgley,
The Documentary Center

The Punk Singer, directed by Sini Anderson, is a beautifully clean and poetic documentary telling of the life of the musician, poet, feminist, and spoken word artist Kathleen Hanna.
Hanna was the front woman behind the Riot Grrrl powerhouse Bikini Kill, which helped explode the movement that they also helped create in the early 90s known as “Riot Grrrl”, empowering women to take the controls on what, at the time, was still a male driven sub culture. In addition, Hanna was the front woman of other remarkable musical incarnations such as Le Tigre and Julie Ruin, and has also been a poet, photographer, fashion designer, active feminist, spoken word artist, and early on helped run a crisis center for young girls.
After a very active career that spanned most of her adult lifetime without interruption Hanna made a conscious decision to step out of the spotlight in 2005.
In order to explain why that happened, this documentary takes us back to the beginning, starting with Hanna’s formative years, and with remarkable narrative clarity, walks us through a life of struggle, expression, and the most natural and poetic birth of a band that can be imagined.
This documentary covers the life and times of its subject with such great ease that it even includes a short section that explains how Hanna’s “valley girl” accent came to be and how it might play a part in her feminist expression.
This film is essential viewing for anyone interested in feminism, female musicians, or just music in general because, as one of the folks interviewed in this film so elegantly puts it, “Bikini Kill wasn’t just the best girl band, they were the best band.”
Such a beautiful story about the birth of a band, the struggle of a vision, and the expression of an upsetting childhood home life.
The film opens Dec. 6 at the Pickford Film Center. See pickfordfilmcenter.org for showtimes.