An inspiring close-up encounter with feminist punk rock legend Kathleen Hanna. Frontwoman for Bikini Kill throughout the 90s, then the hugely popular dance group Le Tigre, she’s a powerful presence onstage and off.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2014
If you haven’t heard of Kathleen Hanna, prepare to meet a feminist art legend. Lead singer of the punk band Bikini Kill and dance-punk trio Le Tigre, Hanna was at the forefront of the Riot Grrrl movement and a major feminist force in the 90s. As The Playlist tells it, “At that time (just as now)… there were few prominent artists, let alone those that were speaking directly, powerfully and critically of the experience of being a woman and addressing issues of patriarchy, sexism, and more. Bikini Kill filled that vacuum with… Hanna’s unmistakable… banshee howl” In live performance she’s angry, uncensored and ridiculously energetic; but in 2005 her work came to a pause. The Punk Singer, crafted from 20 years of archival footage, reveals some of the personal challenges behind this hugely influential figure. Not always popular, not always admired, we see an artist who acted on instinct without always knowing where her actions were taking her. Above all she keeps responding, through her music, to the situations she finds herself in and what troubles her at that moment. . Featuring some terrific and poignant cameos from Carrie Brownstein (Portlandia) and Hanna’s husband, Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz, Sini Anderson’s non-stop documentary is just the blast you need to energise your psyche in mid-winter. After watching this tough, smart woman fight her way through life and transform difficult realities into art, you will come out punching your fist in the air, ready to yell out your own injustices, in fluoro. — Jo Randerson