The Punk Singer: a film about Kathleen Hanna

By Moira Sullivan
Director Sini Anderson with Kathleen Hanna at SXSW Film Festival

Kathleen Hanna’s message written on Kurt Cobain’s wall "Smells Like Teen Spirit" became the actual title of his successful album in the 90s. He was definitely a fan of hers and his song gained him entrance into the MTV world. Whereas Kathleen Hanna, founder of Riot Grrrl admitted in the new doc "The Punk Singer: a film about Kathleen Hanna" by Sini Anderson that her band used to have to spend the night on the floor, on the road, and that their van was a gasket away from ruin. "Bikini Kill" was big in the eight years they existed. Their hectic band life prevented personal time and it was a factor to the breakup. Sounds like what happens in any relationship. But Hanna kept going with a new band "Le Tigre"  whose members included filmmaker Sadie Benning and currently "Julie Ruin", which was completely sold out at Slims in September.

Sini Anderson has made a brilliant film that follows the trajectory of Hanna’s career and why the music groups she was involved with were so successful. First of all "Bikini Kill" was founded after 14 women were assaulted at a rock concert. The band asked the women come to the front and the guys to the back and gave young women the band they deserved. If they were hassled they were allowed to sit on the side of the stage. The music industry is not easy for women even with the greatness of Hanna’s band, Joan Jett and Lynn Breedlove and Tribe 8.

Kathleen Hanna with her killer lyrics and great sound was inspirational for many women especially her devil may care attitude and feminist message. Hanna admits that it isn’t easy for women to tell the truth because there is always someone who doubts it. This may have come from her upbringing were here mother stepped back as she told Kathleen to fall back and she would catch her but didn’t, revealed by the vocalist in the doc.

Hanna worked hard on catching herself, and after "Bikini Kill" started "Le Tigre". In 2005 she stopped performing when she discovered she had Lyme disease. This is the subject of Sini Anderson’s new doc "Sick" now in production.

"The Punk Singer" is artfully edited in an explosion of sound; music and creative touches that makes it stand out from the crowd of music docs. At a tribute show to Kathleen Hanna many women showed up to play including Joan Jett and Sini interviewed them in a van in the parking lot.

 Sini Anderson follows this review in an interview with Movie Magazine

For MMI this is Moira Sullivan

© 2013 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date:12/03/13

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