Film

The Punk Singer

Long live Kathleen Hanna

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sini Anderson’s razor-sharp The Punk Singer profiles the career and impact of Kathleen Hanna, a feminist rock icon (via bands Bikini Kill and Le Tigre) who abruptly dropped from view in 2005. This exciting assemblage of archival and interview materials recalls the considerable influence (and sometime public trivialization) of the 1990s Riot Grrrl movement while showcasing the role of its cofounder and most charismatic leader.

Leaving behind a problematic family background, Hanna arrived as a freshman at Evergreen College in Olympia, Wash., and almost immediately began shaking things up in the local artistic and feminist communities. Initially focused on spoken-word performance as her outlet, she took the advice of experimental-fiction writing idol Kathy Acker and started a band as a means of reaching a wider audience.

In 1991, various circumstances—the scorn heaped upon Anita Hill’s sexual-harassment allegations against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas; Christian Coalition attacks on legal abortion; and the pervasively testosterone-driven, often violent atmosphere at punk music shows—provided an ideal incubator for the activist, angry-yet-positive energy of Riot Grrrl bands, zines and other endeavors. Hanna’s band, Bikini Kill, became the movement’s flagship, her distinctive voice, stage intensity and thematically punchy songs inspiring many while also ticking off more than a few boys’ club punks. (The band demanded that women be allowed up front near the stage, and that male patrons refrain from rough-housing mosh-pit behavior.)

Once the Riot Grrrl movement captured national press attention that tended to focus on invasive personal rather than political or artistic aspects—like Hanna’s brief past tenure working at a strip club—she simply called for a “media blackout” and refused to be interviewed further. The heavy scrutiny Bikini Kill endured while its members still lived hand-to-mouth took a toll.

After they broke up in 1997, Hanna made a solo record under the pseudonym “Julie Ruin,” then formed “feminist party band” Le Tigre, which reframed serious topics as danceable electronic music, complete with multimedia live presentation and even ensemble dance moves. Despite (or because of) their relative high-profile success, however, Hanna called it quits in 2005, saying she had “nothing left to say” in music. In fact she was in denial that her body was forcing her to quit; she’d contracted Lyme disease, which, due to poor initial treatment, had become seriously debilitating over the years. The documentary ends with her finally recommencing her musical activities, however.

Dynamic performance footage and input from a variety of collaborators, colleagues and admirers, as well as Hanna herself, make the tightly edited Punk Singer a vivid watch even for those with no interest in or experience with the music itself.

ICU Roof #2
More Film...
Mother!
Something nasty this way comes

Writer/director Darren Aronofsky wants to have his commercial cake and chomp down on some vexing personal issues, too, in Mother!, a very Rosemary’s Baby-like intimate horror tale that definitely grabs your attention and eventually soars well over the top to make the bold concluding…

more »
Marjorie Prime
Mind over memory

The haunting and allusive Marjorie Prime is a sci-fi film set in the near future but its emotional resonance is bracingly immediate. Based on the 2014 play of the same name by Jordan Harrison, and written and directed by Michael Almereyda, it is, in the largest sense, a movie about memory.…

more »
Patti Cake$
Throw your hands in the air

Imagine living in a world in which everyone you know is an idiot, including every single person in authority, every boss, every cop, even your mother and grandmother. And then imagine that all those tragically, achingly stupid people are convinced they know everything and they can’t wait…

more »
Events
Today
Eat Local Month

10:00am|Whatcom County

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Dog Day Afternoon

3:30pm|South Whatcom Library

All-Paces Run

6:00pm|Fairhaven Runners

Back to School Night

6:30pm|Lynden Library

Try Something New

6:30pm|Mount Vernon City Library

Books on Tap

7:00pm|North Fork Brewery

Skagit Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Bayview Civic Hall

Comedy Open Mic

7:30pm|Shakedown

Salsa Night

9:30pm|Cafe Rumba

Trove
Tomorrow
Eat Local Month

10:00am|Whatcom County

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Sedro-Woolley Farmers Market

3:00pm|Hammer Heritage Square

Peaceful Poetry Workshop and Contest

4:30pm|Village Books

Women's Rock Climbing Basics

6:00pm|REI

Creekside Open Mic

6:30pm|South Whatcom Library

Exploring Vegan Flavors

6:30pm|Whatcom Humane Society

Autumn Soups for the Body and Soul

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Seattle Quartet

7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

BOB_2017 Village Books
Thursday
Eat Local Month

10:00am|Whatcom County

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Lynden Farmers Market

12:00pm|Front Street

Together for Peace

6:00pm|Majestic

Stream Tour

6:00pm|Whatcom Creek

Day of Peace observes those displaced by war

6:00pm

Trash Talk

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Travel Talk

7:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Balkan Folk Dance

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Chuckanut Radio Hour with Nancy Pearl

7:00pm|Village Books

Authentic Illusionist Jay Ownehouse

7:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

The Addams Family Musical

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

see our complete calendar »

Bellingham Farmer’s Market Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Village Books BOB_2017 Trove MBT Janis Joplin 2020 Solutions Sept 2017