Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna would rather not be known for many of the primary reasons we all know her. Those reasons – almost all of which have been played up, then played out, by the media – include: originally coining the phrase “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” getting punched by Courtney Love, being married to a Beastie Boy, and lending vocals (albeit briefly) to a Green Day song. Punk Singer Director Sini Anderson does a fairly decent job of skimming over a lot of those issues, opting instead to maintain a stricter focus on Hanna’s groundbreaking work as a feminist, activist, and politically-motivated provocateur. The result is an entertaining – if not entirely one-sided – portrait of Kathleen Hanna as artist. Certain claims may cause the average viewer to roll her eyes (most notably Tammy Rae Carland’s assertion that “we [all] would’ve starved, culturally” had it not been for Kathleen Hanna), but those claims are counterbalanced by a handful of much more grounded insights. Among the interviewees: (Sleater-Kinney’s) Corin Tucker/Carrie Brownstein, Allison Wolfe, Adam Horovitz, and, of course, Kathleen Hanna, herself. Is The Punk Singer low-budget? You bet your sweet ass The Punk Singer‘s low-budget. In fact, Sini Anderson’s documentary is so low-budget she actually had to initiate a Kickstarter campaign in order to see it through to post-production. Nonetheless, that’s part of The Punk Singer‘s charm, if not the very nature of punk rock itself. Bottom line: If you’re a casual fan of good music, you’ll more than likely enjoy The Punk Singer despite a general lack of revelation; if you’re a Riot Grrrl from way, way back, you’ll more than likely fall in love.
(The Punk Singer opens at New York City’s IFC Center and Brooklyn’s Nitehawk Cinema on Friday, November 29th. It will be available via Video OnDemand.)