With energy and insight, this documentary races through the life of one of the most influential musicians of the 1990s, feminist punk artist Kathleen Hanna. Her story is strikingly involving, as the filmmakers reveal personal details and show Hanna's potent impact on both the industry and society at large.
Even as a young child, Hanna had a fierce sense of justice and refused to be quiet about it. She also understood that music was the best way to get someone to listen, so in 1989 she formed Bikini Kill with her friend Tobi Vail. Their pointed lyrics and high-energy performances made a massive impact on the Olympia, Washington, grunge-punk scene. And over the following years, Hanna helped launch the feminist punk zine Riot Grrrl, created her alter-ego performer Julie Ruin and formed a second band Le Tigre. In 2005, she was forced to retire due to a mysterious illness that wasn't diagnosed as Lyme Disease for six years. She's now back on stage where she belongs.
Director Sini Anderson keeps the film moving briskly through its brief 80 minutes, although this also means that a lot of the context is lost along the way. There's never a clear timeline for Hanna's various bands, and the only real connection to other musicians is seen in her friendships with Joan Jett and Kurt Cobain (Hanna coined the phrase "smells like teen spirit"). But the film gets beneath the surface to explore the more emotional layers of her life, including her marriage to Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz, who has helped her get through her debilitating illness.
Continue reading: The Punk Singer Review