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Thursday, November 28, 2013


Kathleen Hanna. 
Photo courtesy of Alesia Exum. An IFC Films release.

2013, 80 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

The Punk Singer is one of the best documentaries to have been released this year.  Directed by Sini Anderson, the film tells the story of Kathleen Hanna, a feminist activist and lead singer of the 1990s punk band Bikini Kill.  What makes this documentary so fantastic is Hanna's openness.  This is a great example of a film where the subject is as committed, if not more committed, than the filmmaker to tell his or her story.  

This film is a raw, revealing look at Hanna and is fascinating throughout.  Anderson and her editor do an excellent job at making this film completely compelling.  The pace never sags and everything moves fast, but not too fast - with The Punk Singer, I felt as if I got a complete portrait of Hanna's life. Very few documentaries are able to create (what feels like) a complete portrait of their subject's life, but because The Punk Singer tells Hanna's life story with passion and heart through Hanna's own words, it manages to feel complete even in a brief 80 minutes.

Hanna is a fantastic subject for a documentary.  She's wildly funny, offbeat, and completely different than any other person I've seen in any documentary.  Hanna does not hold back and tells every detail of her life no matter how painful.  One thing Hanna reveals near the end is something she's kept from everyone until now - she used this film as her opportunity to announce it to the world.  Kathleen Hanna's personality is magnetic, and while her story isn't like most others, she is very relatable, which makes this film infinitely watchable.  

What I've been trying to say all along is just go see The Punk Singer.  It will be available on iTunes November 29, the same day it opens in theaters.  It is a quick, fascinating, and entertaining look at one of the more colorful characters in recent rock history who regularly goes unappreciated.  This is a great piece of filmmaking - moving, enlightening, and funny.


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