Sunday, May 24, 2015

Streaming Movie Review: The Punk Singer directed by Sini Anderson, 2013

The Punk Singer is a well done documentary film about Kathleen Hanna: singer, songwriter, musician and activist for the rock bands Bikini Kill, Le Tigre and The Julie Ruin. The film is quite an intimate profile of her life, following her from an unhappy childhood (abuse is hinted at, but never explored) to college where she tried to spread a feminist message through spoken word and poetry. After a professor sits her down and says the only way people are going to listen to you is in a band she finds three fellow travellers and Bikini Kill is born. There is some great footage of this legendary band on stage with Hanna’s explosive energy and fearlessness standing up for women in the audience as a singer and also as a behind the scenes activist developing ‘zines and working ferociously for women’s rights. After Bikini Kill broke up, she moved into electronic music much like John Lydon did when he formed Public Image Limited after the Sex Pistols imploded. The band she formed, Le Tigre was still a high energy outfit, they released three albums and toured widely before Hanna became very sick and had to leave the band. This is the most poignant part of the movie where Hanna and her friends and family (there are great interviews with critics and musicians through the film) discuss the hardest part  of that period, Hanna had taken a “leave of absence” from music and nobody, let alone her knew what was wrong. Doctors mis-diagnose several times before finally discovering the truth: late stage lyme disease. And the cure is almost worse than the disease, leaving her housebound, weak and depressed. But the movie ends on a high note, with her disease is in remission she and her latest band, The Julie Ruin, were able to play a set a nightlong celebration of her music and the multi-generational positive effect she has had in empowering women worldwide. The Punk Singer -

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