"}
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.

0674-Commodores_770x150-CW
More Film...
Doctober
Handling the truth

By now, everyone knows that when I’m not executing my Cascadia Weekly duties, I’m moonlighting as a projectionist at the Pickford Film Center.

While the Pickford is currently offering its customary selection of top-notch indie movies, behind the scenes, all conversation revolves…

more »
London Road
A musical murder mystery

The techniques of verbatim theater go back decades, to at least the 1950s, when young German theater troupes would reenact complicated court cases word for word onstage. Even earlier, in the United States, the WPA paid for a form of this performance with its “Living Newspapers,” in…

more »
The Magnificent Seven
Another day, another remake

The big difference between the new version of The Magnificent Seven and the revered 1960 feature is the ethnic background of the main characters. The titular seven in director Antoine Fuqua’s take are a diverse bunch, while the ruthless villain of the piece is no longer a Mexican bandito…

more »
Events
Today
Eat Local Month

4:00pm|Bellingham and Whatcom County

A gold medal standard

4:00pm

Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

Ensembulele

4:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Final After-Hours Market

4:00pm|Depot Market Square

Autumn Soups

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Tame Your Inner Critic

7:00pm|Village Books

Little Women

7:30pm|Whidbey Playhouse

Looking for Betty MacDonald

7:30pm|Village Books

The Music Man

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

The Miracle Worker

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Bellingham Farmer’s Market Mount Baker Theatre
Tomorrow
Eat Local Month

4:00pm|Bellingham and Whatcom County

A gold medal standard

4:00pm

Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

The Music Man

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

The Miracle Worker

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Little Women

7:30pm|Whidbey Playhouse

Wild Things

9:30am|Whatcom Falls Park

Quilt & Fiber Arts Festival

10:00am|La Conner

Parkinson's Dance Class

10:00am|Ballet Bellingham

Spanish Storytime

10:30am|Lynden Library

Ferndale Farmers Market

1:00pm|Cherry Street

Get an edible education

4:00pm

Autumn Celebration Dinner

5:30pm|Bellingham Senior Activity Center

Love, Loss and What I Wore

7:30pm|Heiner Auditorium

Hellingham

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Handling the truth

9:35pm

Andrew Subin Everybody’s Store
Saturday
Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

The Music Man

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Little Women

7:30pm|Whidbey Playhouse

The Miracle Worker

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Quilt & Fiber Arts Festival

10:00am|La Conner

Get an edible education

4:00pm

Love, Loss and What I Wore

7:30pm|Heiner Auditorium

Hellingham

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Handling the truth

9:35pm

Run Like a Girl

8:00am|Fairhaven Park

Model Train Show

9:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Benefit Garage Sale

9:00am|T.G. Richards Building

Twin Sisters Farmers Market

9:00am|Nugent's Corner

Cabbage Class

9:00am|Garden Spot Nursery

Mount Vernon Farmers Market

9:00am|Riverfront Plaza

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Healthcare Film

9:30am|Bellingham Public Library

Whatcom Artist Studio Tour

10:00am|Whatcom County

Fermentation Fun

10:00am|Blaine Library

Skagit Valley Festival of Family Farms

10:00am|Skagit County

Fall Fruit Festival

10:00am|Cloud Mountain Farm Center

Film is Truth Anniversary Party

10:00am|Bellingham Public Market

Fall Family Fun

10:00am|Glen Echo Garden

Birding Walk

10:00am|South Whatcom Library

Porpathon

10:00am|Salish Sea

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|Peace Portal Drive

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Buddy Walk

11:00am|Fairhaven Village Green

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

National Geographic's 50 Greatest Photos Opening

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building

Banned Books Week Read-In

12:30pm|Village Books

Intro to NaNoWriMo

1:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Artist Lecture

1:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Matched Makers Opening

2:00pm|Museum of Northwest Art

Timber Rose

2:00pm|North Fork Library

Traditional Jazz

2:00pm|VFW Hall

Blessing of the Animals

3:30pm|Cornwall Park

Poetry Palavers

4:00pm|Village Books

Edison Opening

5:00pm|Smith & Vallee Gallery

Matzke Art Auction

5:00pm|Matzke Fine Art Gallery and Sculpture Park

Celebrating Jack Prelutsky

5:30pm|Western Library

Fred Morrison

7:00pm|Littlefield Celtic Center

The Aimees

7:00pm|BAAY Theatre

USA Dance

7:00pm|Presence Studio

George Winston

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Folk Dance Party

7:30pm|Fairhaven Library

Tannahill Weavers

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

Bellingham Chamber Music Society

7:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

see our complete calendar »

Northwood Steak and Crab Zoots Side Bar Bellingham Farmer’s Market Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 CW BOB 2016 Swinomish 2016 Village Books Artifacts Wine Bar Mount Baker Theatre Andrew Subin Everybody’s Store