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THE PUNK SINGER opens this Friday in Houston

Don't miss the amazing new documentary about Bikini Kill frontwoman Kathleen Hanna.

THE PUNK SINGER opens this Friday in Houston

One of the things I love about film festivals is the opportunity they provide to watch movies you might otherwise have missed. It was at this past SXSW that I chanced upon THE PUNK SINGER, an amazing new documentary about Bikini Kill frontwoman Kathleen Hanna. I'll admit - I don't have a ton of knowledge about punk music and the film wasn't huge on my radar. I had two hours to kill before another movie I wanted to see, though, so I decided to check out the film - and am I glad I did!

THE PUNK SINGER is an engrossing journey through the career of Hannah - both the highs and lows. Thanks to a great assemblage of interviews and concert footage, the film paints a vivid portrait of Hanna that is just as powerful if you've never had any exposure to her music (living proof right here!). But don't take my word for it. Here are selections from a review by Badass Digest's managing editor (and Houston local) Meredith Borders:

Kathleen Hanna's a force: a squall onstage, a powerhouse in life. The frontwoman of '90s punk band Bikini Kill, late '90s electropop group Le Tigre and one of the founders of the riot grrrl movement, she's the outspoken and unstoppable face of feminism, a brilliant artist and an ass-kicking hero. She seems uncapturable, too vibrant and fleeting, but THE PUNK SINGER, the documentary on Hanna's life by director Sini Anderson, manages to capture her anyway.

This is a movie both powerful and intimate, fitting because Hanna herself is a union of idea and woman. She's the whirling furor wailing onstage with the word SLUT scrawled across her bare stomach, and she's the soft-spoken Valley girl reflecting mildly on the complicated relationship she has with her mother. She's the woman who wrote these words: "We eat your hate like love, we eat your hate like love, how does that feel? It feels blind." And she's the woman who talks about the beautiful, helpless inevitability of her love for her husband (Beastie Boys' Ad-Rock).

Hanna, for all of her power, doesn't always seem comfortable inviting the public into the intimate truth of her life, and that's what makes THE PUNK SINGER so remarkable. Here's a subject that both pushes us away and draws us in, who speaks openly about the most vulnerable moments of her life, who has written songs about her abortion and her sexual abuse, but who seems shy discussing her marriage. Anderson never gives up on the journey of showing us who Kathleen Hanna really is, and at the end, we have a true sense of her. She tells us that punk is an idea, not a sound, and that riot grrrl belongs to everybody. So maybe we're inclined to believe that Hanna herself is an idea that belongs to all of us, because who doesn't want to be a part of that? But THE PUNK SINGER reminds us that Kathleen Hanna is, above all and most importantly, a woman. Just a woman.

In addition to footage from Bikini Kill and Le Tigre and revealing interviews with Hanna herself, THE PUNK SINGER is peppered with commentary from those who know and love her best, and from scholars of third wave feminism and punk music. Even when the film goes rather macro in that sense, we cleave closely to a central story, that of whether Hanna's illness will allow her to rejoin her greatest love, making music. In the past couple of years, Hanna has formed a new band called The Julie Ruin, and by the screening of the documentary, they're producing their first record.

THE PUNK SINGER is that safe space onscreen, the rare film that brings women to the front in an authentic way that never panders. How does that feel? It feels vital.

To read Meredith's full review, click here. To read an interview she conductred with Hanna and director Sini Anderson, click here.

THE PUNK SINGER opens at Vintage Park this Friday, December 6.

Buy tickets here!


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