I’ve been quite into music documentaries lately (not just due to Ryan’s double-header a couple of weeks ago), and I was looking forward to getting to see this one about Bikini Kill leader Kathleen Hanna. My intro to Bikini Kill was actually (shame) Rock Band, which included “Rebel Girl” as one of the playable songs. It quickly became of my favorites, with its combination of catchy music, strident vocals (in my range!), and in your face but humorous lyrics. I listened to some Bikini Kill and other riot grrrl music after that, but not enough to really name songs or know the band members names or anything.
So watching this was really interesting, since I knew a little but not a lot about the band and basically nothing about their background or Kathleen Hanna. It starts in the early days of Bikini Kill where Kathleen Hanna and some college friends basically started the band as a platform for their feminist thoughts. The insight into the punk scene in the early ’90s and how Bikini Kill really worked to make it a safer, more welcoming place for women was fascinating. Though I’m not quite as radical/provocative as Hanna and her friends, not getting crushed in a mosh pit by drunk out-of-control guys seems like a net win.
Anyway. The doc didn’t stop with that, though, and went on into the end of Bikini Kill and Hanna’s creation of Le Tigre, which I’ve also listened to some and need to some more. Then it focuses more on her off-stage life, which it seems like few besides her close friends and family knew about – she retired from the stage in 2005 with a mysterious illness that later turned out to be Lyme Disease. Dang, that disease is harsh. Who would’ve thought a tiny tick could cause all the physical and neurological symptoms it does? The film ends with a bit of optimism as Hanna is able to perform again with a new group, The Julie Ruin (which I’m listening to right now and am enjoying quite a bit).
Interviews with people like Joan Jett, Kim Gordon, Carrie Brownstein, and Adam Horowitz (of the Beastie Boys, and Hanna’s husband) bolster this wide-ranging view of this artist who was far more influential than I ever knew. I also thought that “riot grrrl” was a loose label given to a bunch of similar girl punk bands, but it turns out it was an intentional movement. I learned a lot watching this, as you can see, and it’s also really enjoyable, mixing together several interview sessions (in different places, which is a great idea for the talking head sections of a doc like this), lots of archival concert footage and music.
Stats and stuff…
directed by Sini Anderson
starring Kathleen Hanna
I’m ranking all my Challenge films on Flickchart (as I do all the films I see), a movie-ranking website that asks you to choose your favorite between two movies until it builds a ranked list of your favorites. Just for fun, I will average out the rankings and keep a running tally of whose recommendations rank the highest. When you add a film to Flickchart, it pits it against films already on your chart to see where it should fall. Here’s how The Punk Singer entered my chart:
The Punk Singer > Rescued from an Eagle’s Nest
The Punk Singer > The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
The Punk Singer < Clueless
The Punk Singer < The Avengers: Age of Ultron
The Punk Singer > The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
The Punk Singer > Billy’s Balloon
The Punk Singer < Looper
The Punk Singer < An Education
The Punk Singer > The Kid (1921)
The Punk Singer < The Sting
The Punk Singer > Thirst
Final #733 out of 3659 films on my chart (80%)
It is now my #14 Documentary, my #5 Music film, and my #12 film of 2013.
The Punk Singer was recommended by Rachel Gilbert, a friend from the Flickcharters group on Facebook. Averaging together this #733 ranking with my #1804 ranking of her other film, Beginners, gives Rachel an average ranking of 1268.
A few more screenshots…