The Punk Singer

Art & Culture

Though I’ve been well aware of the Riot Grrrl movement for some considerable time, I’d never really researched that deeply into the world of Kathleen Hanna or any of her peers. After watching The Punk Singer, I can only look back in regret and hope to put my time to better use.

It’s a gritty, overtly indie documentary that takes us through most of the key highs and lows of Hanna’s life with a rather impressive array of talking heads included – husband Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock – Beastie Boys) and Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore are probably the most high-profile figures that gave their time to the film. As well as showing off the courageous, never-say-die attitude of Hanna we’re given an insight into the world that essentially gave us grunge, a brief mention of Kurt Cobain and the drunken graffiti spraying that spawned Nirvana’s most iconic song was an unexpected pocket of intrigue. However, there was only ever one star of the film and it was truly enthralling to watch someone with enough charisma to fuel a nation throughout all the trials and tribulations life has thrown at her.

The fact that her young life is barely mentioned highlights Hanna’s unwillingness to talk about some of the more troublesome, harrowing times of her life which is probably the right decision given the tone of the film. Plenty is made of the fights she has undertaken and the downright unfair treatment of women throughout the ages and it would take someone with a truly black heart to not feel for these women. Hanna’s personal life and career run side by side with her want for equality and for feminism to be taken seriously by all, something which perhaps in reality has been harmed by the approach of certain feminist groups who may have missed the point of the movement slightly.

Nevertheless, Kathleen Hanna’s journey from performing spoken word to becoming a cult icon is a well deserved transformation as her intentions have always remained pure. The intertwining of interviews and live footage convey the scene brilliantly and this is one of the best shot/edited documentaries that I’ve seen in quite some time. Hanna always comes across as very open, honest and, despite her somewhat child-like dance moves, an incredibly mature individual. Her appearance is provocative, her music is loud and brash yet beneath it all there is simply someone with a voice who is not afraid to stand up for the underdog. She is a genuine person, it’s just such a shame that her name isn’t known by more people around the world as she has always fought for a worthy cause.

Hopefully this documentary will help to change that and help to give Kathleen Hanna the worldwide acclaim she so rightfully deserves.

Ciaran Steward.

To find out where you can see The Punk Singer, click here.